The Bashful Bride, by Vanessa Riley

bookedandlit's review against another edition

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emotional inspiring


relliem08's review

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The only saving grace in this book was Arthur Bex, actor/abolitionist - who is tooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good and pure for the overbearing wife he married.

cakt1991's review

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Review originally posted here:

I received a copy of The Bashful Bride in a giveaway from Vanessa Riley ages ago, and am only now getting around to reading it. And despite it being the second in the series and being given the choice between this one and book one, the premise of this one appealed to me more. And I’m glad I took the chance with this one, as not only does it stand alone perfectly enough, but it also, in typical Vanessa Riley fashion, makes perfect use of that engaging and fun premise to delve into real historical details about the lives of free blacks and the abolitionist movement in the 19th century, a topic rarely discussed in Regency romance.

Ester was a heroine I could empathize with immediately. While initially I was drawn to what I knew about her superficially, that she was a shy young woman in love with a celebrated actor and given the chance to actually be with him (a fantasy many women surely have entertained at least once in their life, myself included), I grew to love her determination to escape a marital prospect she views as not right for her, given said “gentleman’s” philandering ways, especially as she is being bullied by her father and observes his loveless union with her mother. She did show her youth and naivete at times, but I think it made her character more well-rounded and flawed in a good way, rather than making her unlikable in those moments.

And Arthur Bex…he’s one of my new favorite heroes. While he is one of those heroes with a Big Secret, and keeping it may have led to more problems in the relationship than there may have been had it come out earlier, I could understand his reasoning for doing so and how his past impacted him…while also understanding Ester being upset with him for keeping it from her.

Vanessa Riley provides a unique take on the Regency romance that is both more inclusive and is also in some ways arguably more compelling in the more complex problems her characters face, and this book is a great example of that. Having read a few of her other one-off episodic works and novellas in the past, I’ll definitely try to pick up more books by her as I can. And I would recommend this book to those who may also looking for a fresh take on the Regency.

storieswithsoul's review

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4.5 Stars
It's a great story and id beautifully interwoven. All the characters are great and I think the author has given them very interesting pasts, which has given them more depth. I really liked the characters in this novel.

Ester Croome is a sheltered young girl who judges her parents harshly based on what she knows. When her father decided to arrange a marriage for her she rebels. In her rebellion she eloped with someone she admires a lot, but he is not someone she knows well. There is very little that she actually knows about Bex, but to her it doesn't matter. She just wants to marry someone of her choosing rather than her father's. Soon she is going to realise that not everything she knows is true, and there is a lot that she doesn't even know....

Bex's past haunts him. However, he is determined to do better in the present as well as the future. He has secrets that he wants to keep well-hidden. But there are people who are becoming more and more interested in his past. So, he decides to find a bride. Someone who trusts him and vouches for him when the time comes. He is willing to settle with any level-headed woman, who believes in the cause he fights for. When he finds Ester he think that his prayers have been answered. She seems like the person he could build a happy life with... but he doesn't realise that sometimes things get complicated and logic becomes overrated...

They both are in over their heads, but will they survive in this world without losing their sanity is a different story entirely.

I really enjoyed it and would recommend to anyone who loves historical romance. However, it's not usual story about the ton. It shows an entirely different side on London in early 1800s.

annalisaely's review against another edition

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I enjoyed this a medium amount. I liked that the two talked so much and that I finally got a historical romance with a marriage of convenience trope that got consent right.
There was a lot of repetitiveness in the heroine's thoughts and her problems with the hero that I think could have been solved with thinking through things before speaking/acting.
I liked the hero pretty well - he had one moment of being a massive jerk vs. her having a bajillion moments of being illogical, which reminded me of how much I resent authors not in their early 20s writing 2o year olds as if they can't connect two thoughts in their heads.
I liked the commentary on how lies can mess up relationships and how you only have so much right to privacy when your secrets affect other people. The characters were very nice together when they weren't arguing, which was maybe 50% of the time - not banterous arguing, by the way, just them both repeating the same sentiments over and over.
I really enjoyed the ending, it was very mushy in the best way.

llamareads's review against another edition

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This is the second book in the Advertisements for Love series, though it can be read as a standalone. I loved Theodosia’s book, so I was excited to ready about her friend, Ester, a young black woman whose father made his wealth in textiles. While I didn’t like this book as much, it still had a lot of the moments and themes that make me love Ms. Riley’s books. Like her previous book, while it’s not overtly Christian, there are Christian themes in the book. The main thread running through this book is one of forgiveness: of learning to forgive others for supposed or actual hurts, and of learning to forgive yourself.

She closed her eyes, forgetting the noisy inn and even Bex’s honey voice and said, “‘The very instant that I saw you did my heart fly to your service, there it resides to make me a slave to it.’”
“No. No one is a slave, or they shouldn’t be. No, you have choices. I want to be your choice, Miss Croome.”

When Ester finds out her father has arranged a marriage for her – to a man known to be a womanizer – she’s frantic to get out of it. So, when the suitor who’s answered her best friend’s marriage ad turns out to be Arthur Bex, the Shakespearean actor she’s had a crush on for years, she jumps at the chance to elope with him to Gretna Green that very night. Bex is taken with the young woman, and has reasons of his own for wanting a wife. But between family opposition, Bex’s role in the dangerous abolition movement, and family secrets, can their chance at love survive?

There’s a bit of a fairytale vibe to Ester’s story. Ester remembers living over her father’s warehouse when his business was just getting started, but now lives in a mansion complete with servants, so there’s a definite rags-to-riches air. There’s also a few continued references to 5 minutes after midnight. Ester tells her friend that fairy tales end at midnight, but anything that goes on after is real – a silly fancy that encapsulates Ester’s character.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The main issue was that I was just horrifically frustrated with Ester. She is young (nearly 21) and about as sheltered as a young black woman could be in 1820s London. Halfway through the book, Ester and Arthur were still rehashing the “should we marry/ shouldn’t we marry” thing, and it just felt so repetitive. I’m not saying it was unreasonable for Ester or Arthur to have doubts – they did decide to get married after two cups of tea! – but it gave a very negative spin to the relationship with all they reasons they shouldn’t get married – and even some why they should – being negative. Every time it seemed like they were making forward progress, something would come up that would send both of them back to the “let’s not get married!” conversation again.

“Why did you marry me? Do you love me?”
He didn’t know how to describe what he felt—part gratitude, part hope, part glad to be chosen—that she cared so much for him. He stood up, pulling her to her feet. “I care for you more than myself. Perhaps that is love. I know what it cost for you to go through with this wedding and to even jump through that window. Your reasons for saying yes matter less to me, only that you did say it.”
She hooked her hand about his neck and draped her head against his bum shoulder. “What does matter to you, Bex?”
“You. You do, Ester.”

Ester’s other character flaw – and one I found easier to understand – was that she struggles with forgiveness, expecting everyone to forgive her but being unwilling to forgive others. Recently, she found evidence that her father had been unfaithful to her mother, and ever since, she’s been cold to him. Even more so, she looks down on her mother as weak for forgiving him. Her father’s actions since – acting genuinely contrite – she views as her mother being bought off with expensive gifts and parties. She calls her mother a “couch woman” – someone who’s just willing to wait around for her husband to come home. With Arthur, she wants him to give up his abolitionist rallies as too dangerous – she doesn’t want to sit at home worrying about him and wondering if he’ll come home at all. She fails to recognize how important that work is to Arthur, and struggles to forgive him when he continues the work after their marriage. Eloping with Arthur gets her pretty much disowned by her family (she left during her mother’s party without leaving a note or anything, so her family feared she was dead or kidnapped), and it takes nearly 3/4s of the book before she starts understanding exactly how much she’s wronged her family and Arthur.

As for things I liked, I was fascinated by Bex’s work with the abolition movement, as it’s something I haven’t read much about before, and horrified by his family secrets. When they ignored their doubts about their relationship, I liked Bex and Ester’s attempts to build a marriage based on the affection they felt for each other, and I liked their banter.

Overall, I think this would be more of a 3.5 star read for me, but I’m rounding up to 4 just because I did truly enjoy it. I’m looking forward to Frederica’s story!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.