A Groom of One’s Own is the first book in Ms Rodale’s Writing Girls series in which each of the four heroines are just that – young women who write for a living, in this case, for London’s favourite newssheet, the London Weekly.
Miss Sophie Harlow was devastated when her fiancé jilted her very publicly on their wedding day. To avoid the scorn and pity of the locals, Sophie took herself off to London to reside with her widowed friend, Lady Juliana Somerset, and secured herself a position at the Weekly. For a woman to embark on any profession at the time the book is set was a scandalous thing indeed, but the paper’s editor is not averse to scandal – particularly when it boosts circulation!
Sophie enjoys her new life, for the most part. Apart from the bit where she has to spend most of her time watching other people getting happily married and reporting on the weddings for her weekly column, “Miss Sophie Harlow’s Marriage in High Life”.
Sophie has had little interest in romantic entanglements since her ill-fated not-wedding day, until she is meets a man one afternoon and finds all of her senses clamouring, “This One”. The very handsome and charming Mr Brandon escorts her home and they part, Sophie full of hope that she will meet him again and they will live happily ever after.
Still occupied by thoughts of the man of her dreams, Sophie is assigned the task of covering what is sure to be “The Wedding of the Year” between the very upstanding, proper Duke of Hamilton and Brandon and Lady Clarissa Richmond, only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond.
Imagine Sophie’s shock at discovering the true identity of her Mr Brandon. And at discovering that he’s engaged to be married in less than a month.
(And imagine mine! :P)
The story that follows has considerable charm and humour, but I can’t help feeling that there really wasn’t enough material here to sustain a full-length novel. There are 46 Chapters (plus an epilogue), and by around chapter 30, I was wishing that things would just get a move on and wrap up already. Sophie wants Brandon. Brandon wants Sophie. He has a fiancée and, being the kind of dutiful, honourable, responsible man he is, insists that he has to go through with the marriage. He’s also got a bit of a bee in his bonnet about having a calm, sensible wife who won’t upset his equilibrium, or distract him from his important work running the country and his many estates; whereas Sophie is, as he frequently says, “trouble”. The problem, however, is that trouble is hard to resist when it comes in as attractive a package as Miss Harlow.
I also found it a little hard to accept the idea that Sophie, a woman who was hit very hard when her fiancé jilted her could be actively wishing for another woman to suffer the same humiliation. To be fair to the author, she does have Sophie realise the irony of the situation, and attempts to mitigate the circumstances by making it clear that Clarrisa and Brandon don’t love each other and never will.
Also, Clarissa is well aware of the attraction between her fiancé and another woman, but is also very much under the thumb of her dreadful, controlling mother and is not the sort of girl to gainsay her.
But that aspect of the premise didn’t sit right with me, nonetheless.
While Brandon is a little different from so many of the rakish, debauched dukes one reads about in historical romance because he is such an upstanding chap and takes his responsibilities seriously, he nonetheless comes across as a bit of a stick-in-the-mud and even somewhat cowardly. Throughout the book, he can’t make up his mind and there were numerous times I wanted to yell at him to grow a pair! He’s a bloody duke twice over, for God’s sake – and as such one of the most powerful men in the country, yet he dithers continually, stringing Sophie along because while he’s determined to do his duty by Clarissa, he can’t bring himself to let Sophie go.
And Sophie spends practically the entire book mooning over how gorgeous he is, and how he’s so perfect for her, and how they’re so perfect for each other and asking herself how he can possibly go through with his wedding to another woman… let’s just say my opinion of her wasn’t all that high either.
There is a predictable solution waiting in the wings, and the ending was farcical – intentionally, I know, but by that time, I’d lost interest and just wanted it to be over.
Even another terrific performance by Carolyn Morris – a very talented narrator who excels in this kind of material – couldn’t do much to redeem such a weak book. She has a real aptitude for bringing out the humour in a story and has a wonderful, deadpan method of delivering the ironic asides Ms Rodale’s characters frequently employ. Yet much of the time, I found myself appreciating her performance rather than enjoying the story. Her narrative is well paced and clear and her voice has a youthful quality to it which is both appropriate and engaging. While she’s not a narrator who lowers the pitch of her voice very much to portray the male characters, she nonetheless manages to make them sound suitably masculine and quite sexy.
The secondary characters were all distinct from one another, and Ms Morris did a great job with her characterisations of the odious Lady Richmond and her oblivious, horse-mad husband. My one criticism is that there wasn’t always sufficient differentiation between all the younger women in the story – the four “Writing Girls” and Clarissa – so that I sometimes had to pay close attention to the dialogue tags to make sure I knew who was speaking.
Overall, A Groom of One’s Own was somewhat of a disappointment, primarily because of the weak premise of the story. I’ve read and enjoyed other books by Ms Rodale, and am well aware that what I’m getting with her stories is unashamed romantic “fluff” and not some weighty historical tome, but this one just didn’t do it for me.
Book Content: C-
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in (but fairly tame)
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Tantor Audio
A Groom of One’s Own was provided to AudioGals for review by Tantor Audio.