Sailing to London, Sophia Braighton only hopes to escape certain ruin. But when she arrives, her Great Aunt Daphne has other plans for the American-born beauty. Determined to marry off her niece to a man of means, she propels Sophia into London society, not knowing that the young woman’s trust in men is shattered. In fact, Sophia never expects to ever feel anything for a man. Then again, she never expects to find herself in the
company of the dashing earl of Marlton….
From the moment he sees Sophia, Daniel Fallon feels alive in a way he has not since his broken engagement. Though the vulnerable beauty shies from the passion burning bright between them, Daniel is determined to court her and make her his bride. And when he learns of the painful secret she harbors, he is equally determined to take revenge on the man responsible. But will the quest destroy him—and his future with his beloved?
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The Forever Brides
By A.S. Fenichel
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 A.S. Fenichel
All rights reserved.
After six weeks of seasickness, Sophia's legs wobbled on the gangplank. She searched London's crowded dock for her aunt and uncle. A shame her aching muscles kept her from running to dry land and finding them. She wasn't above kissing solid ground.
Her maid, Marie, and footman, Jasper, hadn't left her side since Sophia's mother charged them with her care on the journey.
People from every walk of life bustled around the docks, unloading stores and loading supplies for the next journey. A woman in a serviceable dress hugged a young man as he exited the ship from steerage. The mother and son reunion stuck like a knife and she turned away as a child's screaming pulled her attention to the baby who had also endured the long voyage.
At the bottom of the walkway, an older woman in a perfectly tailored burgundy morning dress glanced at something one of her impeccable footmen held. She took the object and pursed her lips. Brown spots marred her tapered hand as she smoothed her bun, though not a hair dared go askew from the perfect coif. She evaluated Sophia down the length of her narrow nose and her frown deepened tightening the profound lines of someone who wore the expression often.
When Sophia reached the dock, one of the woman's footmen approached. "Miss Braighton?"
"Yes. I'm Sophia Braighton."
A touch of sympathy in his eyes, he nodded. "Follow me, please, Miss." He walked her to the woman.
Handing Sophia a miniature portrait of herself, she spoke with a deep, formal air of authority. "I'm Lady Daphne Collington, your great aunt on your father's side. You will be in my charge. Your things may be loaded in the carriage."
Jasper ran off with her ladyship's footman to load the trunks. Dressed in navy blue livery, he looked better than Sophia, but shabby in comparison to the Collington servants in turquoise and bright white.
Sophia handed her miniature back and covered her dismay with a pleasant smile. Taking a deep breath to quash her nausea, she hoped the carriage loading would take some time. The thought of being closeted into another moving vehicle had her in knots. "Lady Collington, where are my Aunt Adelaide and Uncle Cecil? I was given to believe they would be fostering me for this season."
Lady Collington harrumphed.
She would never survive the season with her notorious aunt. Unable to go back to Philadelphia, she held her tongue and hoped for the best. No. There was no going back, and with Lady Collington as her chaperone, there would be no hiding away.
"I'm not accustomed to being spoken to so frankly by one so young. You are far too direct, a consequence of being raised in the Colonies, to be sure. In addition, you are emaciated and we shall have to do something about those ill-fitting clothes." Lady Collington scrutinized her. "I have no idea how we will get you married. Skin and bones is not at all the fashion this season. And that hair, blond is much more in style. Is it always so stringy or is it the salt air?" She climbed into her carriage.
There was no help for it. She should be happy anyone would have her after her banishment from home. "Marie, will you be comfortable in the carriage with my trunks?"
Footmen were loading her trunks into the coach behind the elegant carriage with terrible efficiency.
"Of course. The question is, will you?"
Sophia forced a smile and leaned toward Marie. "Mother is very fond of Aunt Daphne, but she did warn me that she can be a bit harsh at first blush."
Marie raised narrow eyebrows, bobbed, and strode toward the other carriage.
Sophia stepped into the carriage and sat opposite Daphne.
Lady Collington straitened the crisp white lace at her collar. "My niece and her husband have gone to the country. The child is ill again."
Sophia's chest tightened. Best to drop the subject. She would learn more from the servants regarding her cousin than from Lady Collington. "I'm not usually so thin. I'm afraid the voyage was uncomfortable for me."
Lady Collington's eyes widened before her stern gaze returned. "Seasickness is a matter of the mind. You should be stronger-minded than a common girl and have been able to overcome such a disturbance."
Sophia hoped she didn't look as stunned by Daphne's announcement as she felt. Otherwise, she was gaping at the woman. "I see. Have you traveled much abroad then, Lady Collington?"
"Why would I ever wish to leave England?"
Sophia's parents had told many stories about her great aunt over the years. The dowager countess was a widow of an earl who had died before Sophia was born. Every time Sophia's father received a letter from his aunt, he would read it to the entire family. The contents were always severe, but the Braightons found the messages amusing. In a recent letter, she had disclosed that her son, the current earl, had married but chose to stay most of the time in the country. A circumstance the dowager found quite vexing.
Sophia hid her amusement. "I cannot imagine. May I call you aunt?"
"If you wish, but only in the confines of family and close friends. I assume you have been taught proper etiquette."
Sophia forced a smile. "Oh yes, Aunt. Four years at Mrs. Mirabelle's School for Young Ladies."
Lady Daphne's piercing blue eyes narrowed. "This Mirabelle, was she English? I hope your mother did not send you to some Italian to learn manners."
"Miss Mirabelle was very much English, Aunt Daphne." The carriage began moving, and she tried to ignore her nausea. "I was under the impression that you quite liked my mother. She has always seemed very fond of you, whenever she speaks of England."
"Of course I like your mother. She is a delight and I regret my nephew chose to take his family to America. I advised him strongly against it. That does not mean I would wish your manners to be in the Italian style. It would make my work much more difficult. English men have a certain expectation of a wife, you know."
"Yes, Aunt." Looking forward to a bed that didn't move while she slept was her only solace.
Daphne gave her a hard look. "Do you not wish to find a husband?"
"I'll do as you tell me, Aunt." It was a strain, but Sophia was too tired and sick to argue with a woman who'd never understand.
"Of course you will." Daphne ran her finger under her collar where the satin and lace caused an angry rash.
They travelled the rest of the way to London's Grosvenor Square in silence, though she felt Aunt Daphne's gaze on her the entire drive.
As Sophia stepped down onto solid ground, she covered her giggle with her hand. There would be no more rocking of boats or carriages for a while.
The thirty-foot ceiling in the foyer was capped by a crystal chandelier glittering like a crown. Polished to a high shine, the wooden railing of the curved staircase enrobed the space.
"This is your home? No one else lives here with you?" Even with the massive sitting room on the right and library to the left, the walls closed in on her. It was all as grand as her father's stories had indicated.
Daphne cleared her throat. "Upon his father's death, my son, the Earl of Grafton, gifted me this townhouse, since it had long been my home in London. He purchased another for his new wife."
"It's so big." How would she, Sophia Braighton from Philadelphia, ever fit in such a place? She stepped across the white marble with grey veins. Black accent tiles formed geometric shapes in the floor and walls of the entry.
"There will be plenty of time to explore the house, Sophia. You must be exhausted and I would like to rest as well. Mrs. Colms, the housekeeper, will show you to your room."
A large woman in a gray dress and white cap stood off to the side.
"Tonight I'll have your meal sent up, but in the future, I expect, you will prefer to dine with me. We shall not accept any invitations for balls or dinners this week, while you recover from your journey. However, we do have a picnic in three days, which we will attend."
"Thank you, Aunt Daphne. I am tired." She took a few steps then turned, overcome by a sudden feeling of guilt for all the trouble she would likely cause Aunt Daphne. Exhaustion and the idea of resting in a bed that didn't sway with the waves of the ocean might have had a hand in her emotional state, but she hated to be a burden. "I'm sorry to have been foisted on you in such a way. I do appreciate your willingness to sponsor me this season." She threw herself against her Great Aunt Daphne and wrapped her arms around her.
Lady Collington gave Sophia's back one quick pat before dropping her hands back to her sides.
Sophia ended the awkward embrace. Her face warmed over her impulsive show of affection for a woman she had never before met.
Lips tight and eyes wide, Daphne cleared her throat.
She kissed Daphne's cheek and rushed up the steps with no idea where she was supposed to go.
From below, Aunt Daphne said, "Show the girl her room."
Mrs. Colms ambling footfall pounded up the steps and down the hall. She opened the door to a bedroom with sun filtering in and the scent of flowers. "If you require anything, ask me or one of the staff, miss."
"Thank you." Everything was clean and new in the room complete with fresh-cut flowers. Kinder thoughts of her severe aunt warmed her heart. Aunt Daphne had gone to the trouble of having new, cream-colored curtains hung and fresh linens purchased. A small writing desk appeared new as well and a supply of paper, quills and ink sat on one side. The palest pink damask covered the walls and it too was fresh and new.
Already in the room unpacking gowns, Marie grumbled over how they would all need to be taken in. She hoped for an under-maid who sewed tolerably well.
Her window overlooked orderly gardens. Every bush groomed to perfection. Roses bloomed as if by command. Would she too be expected to do everything perfectly? Fear over how much she would disappoint Aunt Daphne tightened around her heart. Disappointing another family member loomed unbearable. Threatening tears stung her eyes. "Marie, leave that for now. I would like to nap a while."
Marie gave her a pitying look. "Shall I help you undress, my lady?"
"No. I'll just lie down atop the coverlet. Come and wake me in two hours, please. Oh, and when you chat with the servants, would you inquire as to the nature of my cousin's illness?"
With three gowns slung over her arm, Marie slipped out of the room.
Sophia leaned back against the mountain of expensive pillows. She missed her mother and father. She longed for home, but it was the home of years gone by, not the place recently left behind. Her father's house hadn't changed in that time, but she was different and everything familiar tainted.
Sophia cried in spite of her determination to be brave. Finally, exhaustion overtook her and she slept.
Someone pulled her away. A heavy weight covered her and a hand pressed over her mouth. She couldn't scream or even breathe. She smothered and struggled to free herself. Excruciating pain erupted between her legs. Her father's angry screams rose above a commotion of banging and her mother's crying. Mortified and afraid, she curled into a ball on the hard floor. Every inch of her body hurt. Then, mercifully, the world went black.
She woke from the same nightmare that had haunted her for the past three years. Perspiration soaked her dress and her heart raced as she gasped for breath. Hair stuck to her face and neck. Blinking the room into focus, she lay still while the worst of her terror passed.
The banging from the nightmare continued. Someone was tapping on the door.
"Enter." Sophia sat up.
Marie stepped inside. "I have ordered you a bath, Miss."
"Thank you, Marie. I would adore a real bath." She stood and stretched. The sun cast a blush over the manicured garden. The shadows of tall shrubberies, with their crisp shapes, stretched long across the walkways. She had slept far longer than two hours.
Marie supervised the arrival of the bath and buckets of water. "I spoke to her ladyship's maid. The air in London does not agree with your young cousin. They have taken her to the country, where she has less trouble breathing. That is all the staff here knows. I'll have a meal sent up when you are finished with your bath."
"Thank you." She sank into the bath. Warm, rose-scented water washed away the nightmare's effects. By the time she pulled herself out, she was too exhausted to eat much. Marie bundled her into the soft down bed and sleep claimed her almost before her head hit the pillow.
* * *
Sophia woke gasping. Daylight pierced gaps in the window dressing. In times of great stress, the dream haunted her sleep with more frequency. Finding herself the ward of Lady Daphne Collington was certainly stressful. She struggled from bed and pulled the drapery back.
According to her parents, London weather was dreary, but the sun shone on the maze of shrubs below as if daring her to be grim. She readied herself to face the day.
In the breakfast room, Daphne sat tall and elegant. Her cheeks were high and her hair arranged into a neat bun. She must have been even more stunning when she was young.
"Good morning, aunt." Sophia walked to the sideboard and filled a plate with boar's head ham, oyster patties and bread.
The room faced the street and was flooded with light from the high windows. The enormous table must have been a remnant from a time when many more people resided under the roof. She sat to Daphne's left.
"You are looking better, Sophia. I trust you slept well." Daphne spoke over her crisp newspaper.
"Oh, I feel fine. I couldn't ask for a more pleasant room. Thank you, Aunt Daphne."
Daphne waved a hand and kept her expression stern. "You may explore the house today if you wish. I generally take a walk in the park each day after calling hours. You may join me, if you feel up to it."
"I would like that very much."
Daphne nodded and returned to her paper, while sipping coffee.
A cup of chocolate arrived via footman and Sophia was grateful to Marie for thinking to inform the cook of her preferences.
"Stupid girl" Aunt Daphne muttered.
Sophia's heart raced. She had not chipped the fine china or even scratched one delicate flower from the edge of the plate. How had she managed to disappoint so quickly? "I beg your pardon?" Daphne handed over the newspaper. "Elinor Burkenstock has ruined herself. Her poor mother must be beside herself. She will never get that nit married off now. You should take note, Sophia. That type of behavior will not be tolerated while you are in this house."
This reporter has it on good authority that the fine gathering at the Addison's Ball was marred by dreadful behavior. Sources say Miss EB was caught in a compromising position with Sir M, by none other than Lady P. This reporter is shocked by the blatant disregard for propriety displayed by Miss EB ...
The account went on, but it was so confusing, she stopped reading and looked at Daphne. "I don't understand all of this Miss EB, Sir M and Lady P business."
"It is a rather silly code the paper uses to avoid being outright slanderous. Meaningless, really, since everyone knows everyone else, at least by reputation. Miss EB is, of course, Elinor Burkenstock. Sir M is Sir Michael Rollins, a man of questionable honor and, by all accounts, little means. Lady P is Lady Pemberhamble, the most outrageous gossip in all of England. It really is a shame. The stupid girl will be put on the shelf, or if by some miracle her father can force a marriage with Rollins, she will then be married to a libertine."
"I'm surprised this gossip interests you, Aunt."
Lady Collington's lips tipped up in what might have been a smile, but it vanished. "I do not perpetuate gossip, my dear, but reading about it is part of how we get by here in London without being bored to tears. Besides, the girl's mother, Virginia Burkenstock is a particular friend of mine. Was it so different in Philadelphia?"
Three years ago, people she'd thought were her friends had abandoned her at the first sign of scandal. Sophia's father had squashed the truth, but still, rumors circulated for a season. "No. I suppose not, but I don't like the malice behind such rumors. For all we know, there might be little truth to the story. But because her family was unable to hush it up and it made it to print, she'll be ruined."
"What would you suggest, Sophia?" Aunt Daphne raised one imperialistic eyebrow.
Excerpted from Tainted Bride by A.S. Fenichel. Copyright © 2016 A.S. Fenichel. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the way the author brought out the personalities of all the characters . This was an entertaining story.
This was a typical story of trust. The two leads both had issues with trusting the opposite sex and they come together to overcome this and develop an emotional connection. Tainted Bride was certainly not the best historical romance I've read but it wasn't the worst. It started off fairly slow and took a while to get into but by the halfway point I was into it. The ending was a bit too much especially considering the events leading up to it but, again, it was alright. Average. Sophia had a lot of strength to her and it really shined through. Her and Daniel had to overcome both external society issues as well as internal issues causing conflict in their blossoming relationship. They were really well developed despite their interactions being a tad stilted at times. My only real issue was with Sophia, just a part of her personality. She had a serious self-loathing streak going on that started to grate on my nerves after a while but was otherwise I enjoyed her character. Fenichel also did a good job of providing details here and there, seemingly irrelevant, that would come up later, tying everything together. The pacing wasn't always great, irregularly fast and slow, but the story was fairly engaging. I mean, in general, this book didn't wow me by any means but it's perfect for fans of the genre looking for something new to read. I think this is a series with potential to be great.
Sophia has just arrived in London from Philadelphia where she not only left behind her family, but her past as well. She quickly finds new friends whose loyalty and devotion is tested when her past follows her across the Atlantic. Determined to be a spinster, she still attends balls in the hopes of becoming a familiar face among the ton. She meets Daniel, who has recently been scorned by love and is also determined to never fall in love. Can the two damaged hearts heal one another? Daniel meet his friend Tom's love interest and surprisingly finds himself being attracted to her as well. The newly arrived American keeps him on his toes and leaves him confused as she rejects him time after time. Why does he still chase after her despite her rejection? As Sophia and Daniel endure tribulations together, they learn to rely on each other. On the other hand, each of their first responses to stress is to run away. Their friendship is tumultuous as are their feelings for each other. In the past, I would be disinterested in a regency/historical romance. The books in those genres that I had read seemed unrealistic, even for their time periods, or the author would get too caught up in the details of the setting rather than the plot. Fortunately, A.S. Fenichel has changed my mind and is quickly climbing up my list of favorite authors. She makes the setting stunning yet it does not distract from the story. In the previous book that I read from her, Foolish Bride (Forever Brides #2), I loved the action sequences as well as the despicable villain. Similarly, this book also has a heinous villain that causes the sad backstory that follows Sophia across the ocean to England. Furthermore, just as with the other book, the supporting characters are vastly different yet band together to help Sophia through her highs and lows. Both Tainted Bride and Foolish Bride can be read as standalone novels. I have proven this in my experience as I read Foolish Bride first without realizing that it was part of a series. The protagonist in each book are friends within the plot so reading one book will familiarize the reader with the characters in the other books. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series! I recommend this book for readers that enjoy action sequences, steamy romance, regency environments, and character development. I would not recommend this book for readers who may be put off by explicit sexual scenarios, violence, mild foul language, sexual assault, slavery, and kidnapping.
I really enjoyed this story! Sophia had gone through something very traumatic before coming to England that made her dead set against getting married. But the aunt she was living with had other plans for her. Luckily Sophia met Daniel and he was her perfect match in every way. Most people didn't know the real Daniel. After having his engagement broken, he never thought to find love again until he met Sophia. I loved watching Sophia and Daniel find their HEA as Sophia learns what the real Daniel is all about. I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Foolish Bride, where Elinor and Michael (whom we meet in this story) will hopefully find their HEA.
This story has some really dark elements, but I really enjoyed Sophia and Daniel's journey. Sophia had prepared herself for the life of a spinster until she made new friends and met Daniel. The attraction to Daniel was swift and strong, though she fought it for a while. Once Daniel set his eye on Sophia, he was determined to have her, although his past gave him some misgivings. With friends all around both of them, helping and advising, these two found their HEA. This is the first in the series and I look forward to more from this author. I received a copy of this story through Netgalley.
Sophia is a woman in denial. About many things. Including her attraction to Daniel. Daniel has his sights set on the beautiful, yet fragile angel that has awakened his dormant emotions. All at once he feels protective and enamored. Daniel is the dashing knight that seeks to rescue the damsel in distress. That annoyed me some, but the way the author handled Sophia's painful reveal took some on the aggravation away. Tainted Bride is a story of empowerment, sacrifice and healing.
After a disheartening voyage of six weeks at sea, Miss Sophia Braighton of Philadelphia sets foot on English soil. Her great-aunt Lady Daphne Collington is to chaperone her in her London season, in hopes of Sophia securing a husband. However, because of a scandal in America, Sophia doesn’t want a husband. Ever. Not even when Daniel Fallon, the earl of Marlton sends her heart aflutter. Daniel is immediately smitten by the beautiful American, but can he overcome the betrayal of a former fiancée? TAINTED BRIDE is the first book in the promising Forever Bride series, and Ms. Fenichel’s eloquent prose make the Regency era come to life with great clarity. The author’s understanding of the mores of the era adds much depth to the story, and the dialogues also ring especially true. Sophia went through a heartbreaking ordeal in America, which Ms. Fenichel conveys so well that I have seldom felt so much pain and compassion for a character. While Sophia is charming and has a sunny disposition, melancholy is never far from the surface. TAINTED BRIDE is very beautifully written, very moving, and the characters are particularly well rounded. Lady Daphne is superb, full of surprises, and while Daniel is lovely, it is the irresistible Thomas Wheeler who captured my heart. And what to say about the positively revolting villain? I really loved TAINTED BRIDE, the first half is splendid however, I felt the second half dragged on a bit. I found a certain situation involving Sophia excruciatingly hard to read. The credit goes to the author because I can’t recall profound distress ever being described so accurately; I really hurt for Sophia, but it would have been just as effective, in my opinion, had it not lasted so long. The same goes for what brought about this situation and how it is dealt with, which could have been trimmed down; I felt that too many somewhat superfluous details bogged down the story, and slowed the pace, and somehow distracted from the romance, in a way. TAINTED BRIDE is a compelling story of love, trust, loyalty and friendship, and Ms. Fenichel is not afraid to show the ugliness beneath the glittering veneer of polite society in a way that is seldom found in historical romance, and in most elegant fashion. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Sophia Braighton had no idea what to expect upon her move to London. She's been in a state of emotional freeze since a family friend attacked and raped her three years previously. She informs her Great Aunt Daphne she has no plans to marry, which Daphne refuses to believe. Sophia immediately makes several close friends, and enters Society, simply going through the courtship motions. At least until she meets Daniel Fallon. Daniel has a few issues of his own, and is quick to become jealous and a little jaded by the American beauty. But he's drawn to her charm and vulnerability in spite of himself. But when the old family friend reappears, Daniel will stop at nothing to save Sophia, even to the point of marrying her. I enjoyed the world Fenichel has created. She paid fine attention to the details of Regency era life, and writes characters with heart and soul. A wonderful start to the Forever Brides series.