Trouble at the Wedding
By Laura Lee Guhrke
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Annabelle Wheaton is no empty-headed heiress searching for love. All the millions she inherited from her miner father have not been enough to win her acceptance in the stratified society of New York at the turn of the twentieth century. The elite will always view her as vulgar nouveau riche with a taint more indelible than her Mississippi accent. Experience has taught her that love leads to disillusionment and heartbreak, and she has no illusions about her engagement to the Earl of Rumsford. She views their upcoming marriage as a bargain from which they will both profit. He will gain a much needed infusion of capital to maintain his home and estate, and she will gain an aristocratic connection powerful enough to give her the status she wants and to protect her younger sister from the humiliations Annabelle has suffered.
Christian Du Quesne knows fortune hunters. He was one once, but his marriage ended so disastrously that he’s determined not to marry for wealth again, even though he has inherited a mountain of debt along with the title upon the death of the Duke of Scarborough, his older brother. But when Annabelle’s uncle, convinced that marriage to Rumsford will make Annabelle miserable and dissipate her fortune, offers Christian a substantial amount to stop the wedding, he accepts.
Christian boards the ship on which the Wheaton-Rumsford wedding party is traveling to England, knowing that the time frame he has to accomplish his task is a narrow one—a mere four days. He knows Rumsford and aristocratic English society. He understands what marriage to Rumsford will do to Annabelle’s pride and independence. He knows how unrealistic are her expectations of what her life as the Duchess of Rumsford will be. He is caught by surprise, however, by the effect the American heiress has on him. Falling for her was not part of his plan.
Christian disturbs Annabelle in ways she’s not willing to analyze. She tries to ignore him, but his pointed comments about marriage into the aristocracy generally and to Rumsford particularly cause her to question her choice. However, it will take more than second thoughts to make this bride bolt. Just how far is Christian prepared to go to cause trouble at the wedding?
This is the third book in Guhrke’s Abandoned at the Altar series, following Wedding of the Season (December 2010) and Scandal of the Year (January 2011). This time she adds an American element to the Edwardian series. Set a few years later than the heyday of the “dollar princesses,” American heiresses from families whose wealth was recently acquired and who were frequently snubbed by the likes of Mrs. Astor and the Four Hundred, Trouble at the Wedding follows the pattern of that period when the eager daughters and ready money of American trade barons were saving the historic homes of land-rich, cash-poor British aristocrats.
Guhrke’s story is reminiscent of Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel, The Buccaneers, but with less moral complexity and an unambiguous ending that will satisfy romance readers.
Guhrke not only evokes a colorful period, she also creates characters that readers will care about. Annabelle has intelligence and independence. I loved the scene early in the novel where she shows her financial advisors how well she understands the money she has and the power it gives her. Her vulnerabilities are less evident because she guards them so well, but they increase her appeal. Christian is a better man than he credits himself for being, and he is remarkably clear-eyed about the aristocracy. His efforts to dissuade Annabelle from marrying Rumsford reminded me of how miserable the lives of some of the real heiresses who married for titles were.
I was hoping the third book would be Paul’s story, and I was disappointed that it wasn’t. Still, Trouble at the Wedding is a strong addition to the series. The Edwardian setting is a fascinating backdrop for this passionate tale about two people who think falling in love is not for them. If you’re interested in a novel with strong historical connections to both sides of the Atlantic about characters who will capture your interest and your sympathy, I recommend this book.