Review: The Bittersweet Bride – Vanessa Riley

Review: The Bittersweet Bride – Vanessa RileyThe Bittersweet Bride
by Vanessa Riley
Series: Advertisements for Love #1
Also in this series: The Bashful Bride, The Butterfly Bride
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Amara)
Publication Date: January 29, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 200
Source: NetGalley

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.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Widow Theodosia Cecil needs a husband to help protect her son. The former flower seller turned estate owner posts an ad in the newspaper, and no one is more surprised than she when her first love, the man she thought dead, reappears.

Ewan Fitzwilliam has been at war for six years. Now, the second son of a powerful earl is back but his beloved Theo needs a husband and will not consider him. She believes Ewan left her—in desperate straits—so she denies the feelings she still harbors for the handsome, scarred soldier. Theo and playwright Ewan must overcome bitter lies and vengeful actions that ruined their youthful affair. Theo must reveal her deepest secret in order to reclaim the love that has long been denied.

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Theo is between a rock and a hard place.  With her beloved husband dead, and her mourning period nearly at an end, she knows she must marry again to protect her young son.  The last thing she needs is for a ghost from her past to appear and bring back all her carefully buried regrets.  Ewan – once believed dead due to an army mixup – is finally back in England, and is shocked to discover his first love is now his cousin’s widow.  Can they both let go of their feelings about the past and make a new future together?

“We said, ‘Respectable young widow of means looking for honorable family man of good character for matrimony.’”
The grimace on Frederica’s supple features was comical. Her nose wriggled as if she smelled dead fish. “Oh. I forgot we went the mind-numbing route. We should write back with more color. Something clever.”
Trying not to turn back to the patio, Theodosia crossed her arms. “What should I have said? Blackamoor beauty with babe and loads of baubles, needs beau?”

Theo’s life is hemmed in by her “Rs” – what she calls regrets – and those Rs are in some ways more harmful to her than all the racism she faces for being black and the circumstances of her low birth.  The root of all her regrets – though perhaps not the most painful one – is that she trusted Ewan enough once by agreeing to elope with him.  Theo still loves Ewan, but he’s failed her before by not being strong enough to stand up to his father.  Theo has had to make some hard choices, but she owns them.  Ewan, on the other hand, at times seems years younger than Theo, despite having been away in the army for more than half a decade.  Ewan’s constant jumping to conclusions and willingness to believe the worst of Theo got old.  Ewan believes she’s prideful and would never admit she’s wrong, and constantly accuses her of lying, gold-digging, etc.  At heart, I think, he’s a good person, but it’s obvious that, had they eloped as intended, their marriage would never have lasted.  As he spends more time with Theo, Ewan realizes the story he’s constructed about what happened – the story that his family has encouraged – is missing some major pieces.

“Resigned, she smoothed her thick cuffs and steeled her spirit with Mathew’s words.
Theodosia, you are a light rising from obscurity. When you focus on helping others, the darkness you think you have will be like the noon sun.

There is a lot of conflict and angst:  Theo and Ewan’s unresolved romance, Theo’s guilt over Phillip’s illness, Ewan’s conflict with his family, Lester’s scheming to win control of the Cecil estate, plus, of course, their difference in race and class.  It was, at times, an exhausting read, because at one point it was very hard to imagine how they were going to end up together given everything stacked against them.  Regardless, I think, it is a hopeful book, as Theo is strong, determined, and willing to do what needs to be done.  There are some Christian themes running through it, as well as some Bible quotes, which works well with the themes of redemption, though I don’t think it would be overly noticeable to a secular reader.  Theo’s friends were lovely, and I’m hoping that they are supposed to be the heroines of the next few books.  I also loved Pickens, the butler!

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I’m very much looking forward to the next in the series!  Recommended for anyone who loves second chance romances, with a well-drawn back story, and lots of conflict!

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