The Sherbrooke Bride (A LLB favorite)
By Catherine Coulter, 1992, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN #0-515-10766-2
First in a series, followed by: The Hellion Bride, The Heiress Bride, Mad Jack, The Courtship, The Scottish Bride, Pendragon, and The Sherbrooke Twins

Sensuality:Hot

If you've ever read Catherine Coulter, this is vintage good Coulter. Fast paced with humorous dialogue. A definite keeper.

The Sherbrooke Bride is the first in the Bride trilogy, and in this reader's opinion, the best of the bunch. This is the story of Douglas Sherbrooke, the Earl of Northcliff, perhaps the most complex of the Sherbrooke siblings. Tall, dark, handsome, arrogant and self-assured, he certainly does not start out as the most likable character, but he does grow on you as the story evolves.

Alexandra is the daughter of an impoverished duke, who has secretly loved Douglas since she was 15. Pale in comparison to the exquisite beauty of her older sister Melissande, she is made of sterner stuff. At times she gives the impression of being malleable or submissive, and is often unaware of the steel in her spine, which becomes readily apparent when defending her beliefs or her beloved.

Douglas is pressured into doing his duty by marrying and producing an heir. He wants to do this without the pains of having to go into polite society. He remembers Melissande from three years ago and decides to offer a large settlement for her knowing, her father's dire financial situation. Douglas, unable to attend to the matter personally, sends his cousin Tony in his stead. The plan is that once Melissande accepts, Tony is to wed her by proxy to Douglas.

Tony makes the offer but elopes with Melissande himself, wedding Douglas to Melissande's sister, Alexandra. Needless to say, Douglas is not pleased. He finds Alexandra sorely lacking and never misses an opportunity to tell her so. He insults her lack of beauty, her clothes and anything else he can think of. The ever stoic Alexandra contends with this as long as possible. She finally realizes that Douglas will never grow to love her and decides to run away to her childhood home. Unfortunately, she chose a stormy night to take flight. Douglas catches her, lightning spooks their horses, and they wind up at the gamekeeper's cottage for the night. Soaked to the bone, Alexandra develops a fever and Douglas nurses her back to health. During this time he decides to make her "the happiest woman in the world" by keeping her as his wife.

Douglas finally tells her, but gets quite the different reaction. He thought she would fall on her knees and thank him, not throw a table at him. You wonder how these two will ever get together but they do come to an agreement about their marriage.

Since they have agreed to give their marriage a go, the marriage must now be consummated. Douglas explains how things will go and informs Alex that she is fortunate indeed to have Douglas as her lover. She is told she will benefit from his past experience and excellent technique. When they finally do have their wedding night, Douglas puts in a less than stellar performance. For some reason, he loses all control with Alexandra, never thinking for a moment that she could be special. The dialogue that follows is delightful. Arrogant pup that he is blames everthing from the bedroom atmosphere to his wife, but never (heaven forbid) himself. Only when he discovers that he loves his wife can he actually get it right.

As with every good love story, a plot twist prevents our hero from professing his love. This particular plot twist comes in the form of a Frenchman with a grudge who kidnaps Alexandra. With the help of "The Sherbrooke Ghost", Douglas locates Alexandra, saves her and exacts revenge on the real villain. This particular revenge is handled in the typical Coulter humorous fashion which I won't give away.

Yes, folks, we finally do get a happy ending! This book sets up nicely the second book in the series (The Hellion Bride). I only wish there were more Sherbrooke siblings for Coulter to write about!

This particular book started my never-ending romance adventure. I often re-read this when waiting for a new release. While I've since noticed that this book doesn't hold up quite as well as some others, I will always love this book. I particularly love the character of Douglas. Every woman should experience a Douglas at least once in her life. I just does something for one's ego when a man is soooo turned on that he's just fast and furious. The dialogue was great! He spends half his time explaining how great he usually is then blames everything including the bed for not living up to the legend in his own mind. It did my heart proud to see him finally get it right and he only had to realize that he was in love with Alex. Half the fun of this book were Douglas's attempts to prove his prowess. The were hot and humerous! (What a combination.)

I also identified with the character of Alex because she felt awkward and plain in comparison to her beautiful sister Melissande. All the girls in my family are 6 feet tall and could be runway models. At 5'8 I always felt as if I didn't quite meet up to their standards. They're fashion queens and I've always preferred comfortable, practical LL Bean. Melissande was the fashion queen and Alex was the practical one who never got the new clothes for the season she never had because Daddy ran out of money. I was really rooting for Alex to get the guy of her dreams and leave her beautiful sister in the dust. They say nice guys always finish last and I had to read this book to see that statement proved wrong. Even since this book I'm a sucker for a happy ending. I just loved it that the Plain Jane could get the good-looking rich guy, a title and the love of her life to boot.

As a relatively new romance reader, this book caught me hook, line, and sinker. It has something for everyone! A fantasy hero. A heroine who you don't love to hate. Batty relatives. A resident scoundrel. A delighful cast of supporting players. A resident ghost and a villian who turns out to be not so bad in the end. If you haven't read it, put on those jogging shoes and run right out to your neighborhood bookstore. If you have, dust if off for an utterly entertaining re-read.

-- Chris Furbacher

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