Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed

Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed, by Jo Beverly, was a total impulse read. I had spotted it a few months ago at the library when I was without my card, and the few random pages I read were enough to tempt me. Now that summer’s here I had to celebrate with a Regency romance.

Society is shocked when David Kyle, Lord Wraybourne, announces his engagement to the Sandiford heiress, the only daughter of a wealthy, Puritan-like country family. After all, they have barely met, and Wraybourne was one of the most desirable bachelors on the market. Jane Sandiford herself can hardly believe her fate and good fortune, even if he seems to be only marrying her for her money. Nevertheless, she is nervous for her entré into the Society she has been shielded from, alongside Wraybourne’s vivacious sister Lady Sophie. She has few to guide her, and many who want to see her fail. Most nerve-wracking of all is the prospect of spending time with her betrothed, for Jane can’t quite explain the spell he has cast on her. Wraybourne himself is looking forward to drawing Jane out of her shell. At the same time, however, he must also attend to business for his uncle about an unknown gentleman attacking local females. The culprit may be closer than he would like to believe. And, of course, he must find a suitable suitor for his sister.

I’m always skeptical of stories where a girl gets introduced to society and falls in love with the first man she is exposed to, but for the most part Jo Beverly makes it work. Jane’s feelings for David remain strong even after she is exposed to other men who are more attractive. As for Wraybourne, he could have had any woman he chose and had no need to marry for money, so the fact that he chose Jane really does suggest that the two had love at first sight, even if they didn’t fully realize it at the time. I don’t think I really believe in that concept any more, but it’s nice to still pretend. The suspense of the romance comes from each believing the other doesn’t reciprocate as strong a feeling.

Jane is well-balanced heroine, naive, sensible, and passionate, whom we are glad to see grow confident and mature over the course or the book. To put in in Austen terms, she has ample opportunity to be a Catherine, but comes out more like an Eleanor or Jane. Wraybourne, of course, is Tilney and Bingley and everyone else rolled into one. One of my few faults with the book is that Wraybourne has absolutely none, except a vaguely hinted-at past indiscretion. He is handsome, wealthy, titled, charming, thoughtful, clever, devoted, and everything in between. To again borrow from Austen, where indeed could we find a better lover, kinder brother, or truer friend?

Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed was originally published in 1988, though Amazon seems to have a recent reissue (the cover is not how I pictured Jane). For those who may be concerned about steaminess, it has no racy elements, though there are mentions of past and present affairs. And of course the ladies’ gossip includes things they probably wouldn’t say in mixed company. Overall, it’s more passion than you would see in Jane Austen and much less than almost any modern romance, which is exactly how I think it should be.

Georgette Heyer is still my standard for Regency, and a high standard indeed, one that Jo Beverly was certainly conscious of. Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed measures up surprisingly well, especially for a first novel. It has likable, engaging characters, occasional witty banter between the leads, accurate fashion and language, and not one but two small suspenseful subplots. While the premise sagged a bit under closer consideration, Jane and David won me over in the end and were pleasant companions for an evening.

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Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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