Isabella Bradford, Where Have You Been All My Life?

[As always…spoilers]

In this review, these works by Isabella Bradford:

  • When You Wish Upon a Duke (published July 31, 2012 by Random House Publishing Group)
  • When the Duchess Said Yes (will be published Sept 25, 2012 by Random House Publishing Group)
  • When the Duke Found Love (will be published November 27, 2012 by Random House Publishing Group)

I downloaded* the second book in Isabella Bradford’s new The Wylder Sisters series without realizing it was a second book and without ever having heard of Isabella Bradford (turns out, there’s a reason I’d never heard of her). When the Duchess Said Yes (#2) turned out to be incredibly enjoyable. So, I hopped back online and saw that another Wylder Sisters book was available: When the Duke Found Love (#3). I ate that one up. By this point, it was clear that I had missed out on reading the first book in the series, When You Wish Upon a Duke (#1), so I then read that one, too.

*downloaded as an advanced reader copy from Net Galley.

I almost have too many thoughts about these books. Where to begin? At the beginning, I suppose.

First, When You Wish Upon a Duke.

The cover of When You Wish Upon a Duke. A woman in a large purple dress, lounges back on a blue settee. Across her chest she has open a gold fan. We cannot see her face.

Summary from Goodreads:

Raised in the Dorset countryside, Lady Charlotte Wylder doesn’t care one bit about well-bred decorum. The dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty would rather ride a horse than attend a stuffy ball. So when Charlotte learns that she is to leave immediately for London to wed the Duke of Marchbourne, a perfect model of aristocratic propriety, she is less than enchanted with her arranged marriage.

But to her delight, their first encounters are brazenly flirtatious, and their wedding night burns with passion. March’s broad shoulders and dark countenance make Charlotte want to rip every button off his waistcoast. She may even be falling in love with her new husband. Yet whenever their desire boils over, March reluctantly pushes Charlotte away. Will past secrets and present misunderstandings mire their marriage in scandal, or serve to strengthen a bond that is destined to last a lifetime?

Let’s start here: this was my least favorite of the three (and the last one I read). Then this: Bradford’s great strength, aside from her wit and lovely writing style, is her chameleon-like quality of adopting the tone of the book to the characters. Conclusion: I just didn’t like Charlotte and March nearly as much as I liked the characters in the other two books. And I’m not sure that means anything other than that I tend not to enjoy stories where one of the characters thinks that being passionate is bad (March, in this case). The past secrets and present misunderstandings mainly just frustrated me instead of endearing me to the Charlotte and March.

This all sounds so negative. That is only because, as you will see, I had two very, very good books to compare this one to. There were certainly parts of this book that I loved, like when Charlotte and March first met. He has decided to meet her carriage on its way into London. Yet when he comes upon them, the carriage is stopped and Charlotte has climbed a nearby tree to retrieve her sister, Diana’s, cat. March climbs up after her and their first meeting is full of flirtation and like and warm-hearted moments, where you feel them falling for each other’s charms. In a tree.

I give When You Wish Upon a Duke 3.5 out of 5 stars. I’m saying, read it. Just don’t for a second think you’ve read the best of Isabella Bradford because…

Next, When the Duchess Said Yes.

This is the cover image of When the Duchess Said yes. We see the back of a woman's dress. It has a low V cut. She is turning to look over her right shoulder, a large, open hand in her right hand.

Summary from Goodreads:

Notorious for her free-spirited antics, Lady Elizabeth Wylder revels in attention—but not the sort that leaves her humiliated when her future husband, the Duke of Hawkesworth, fails to appear for their much-anticipated first introduction.

So when a chance encounter leads to a sizzling kiss with a dangerously handsome stranger, she nearly succumbs. The shock of finally meeting her betrothed only to come face to face with her rakish would-be seducer inspires fury—and fans the flames of a fire that both Lizzie and the Duke acknowledge is a most agreeable way to start a marriage. In her husband’s arms, Lizzie knows she has found love. But is the passion that accompanies endless nights of erotic discovery enough to persuade a duke whose scandalous lineage and lifestyle prevent him from giving his heart completely?

Oh, Lizzie Wylder, I like you. I like you making out with men simply because you are attracted to them. I like you pretending to quote from a stuffy book of Reverend Fullingham’s sermons and then immediately using that pretense to flirt mischievously with your future husband. I like you because you like cherry tarts. I like you because you say things like “I am wild.” And, oh, OH, how I liked you for pouring that pot of coffee on that damned painting. Because oh how I wanted to do that.

I liked Hawke fine. I found his inability to communicate with his wife about his desire to live in Italy and his sureness in the end of love to be tiring. And parts of the story were terribly predictable (obviously the woman at the theatre who Hawke saw from afar and wanted to know better would turn out to be his Lizzie).

But I was rooting for Lizzie and that made this book more enjoyable for me than When You Wish Upon a Duke. I also like how Lizzie never wavered in her position – unlike Charlotte who often considered herself to be at fault when March was being bullheaded, Lizzie stood her ground.

I give When the Duchess Said Yes 4 out of 5 stars.

Finally, When the Duke Found Love.
Cover image of When the Duke Found Love. Woman in blue dress sits on yellow couch, holding fan. She has turned to look over her left shoulder. We cannot see her face.

Summary from Goodreads:

The youngest of the Wylder girls—and the last left unwed—Lady Diana is also the most willful, a trait that’s leading her ever closer to dishonorable disaster. While her family’s solution is a fast and excruciatingly respectable marriage, Diana can’t imagine being wed to the very staid and dull Lord Crump. But while wedding plans are being made, a chance meeting at a gala turns Diana’s world upside down.

A kiss from a dazzling stranger gives Diana a most intimate introduction to one of the ton’s most resolute and scandalous bachelors, the Duke of Sheffield. Torn between family duty and her heart’s desire, Diana recklessly surrenders to the headiest of passions, recognizing that she has found a kindred soul in the handsome young duke. Soon it’s clear that seduction is no longer the game: Something deep and lasting has come to bind their hearts, and the stakes are nothing less than true love.

My favorite. Easily. And I’ve been trying to think why I liked this one more than the other two. I think it’s because I liked both Diana and Sheffield plus I enjoyed watching them decide for themselves that what they wanted from life was each other. And that probably says a whole lot more about me than it does about Bradford or this book. I also think this book, more than the other two, shows off Bradford’s clever style and wit. For example, the way Bradford describes the ever-boring and emotionless Lord Crump. After having just met him for the first time, only minutes after her mother and sister have told that she is to marry Crump (side note: I mean, really, am I supposed to like Charlotte when I go back and read the first book in the series after seeing her lecture and steer Lizzie and Diana through the other two books?), this is how Bradford paints the picture of Diana and Crump’s walk in the park:

She heard the door to Charlotte’s carriage close behind her and the driver call to the horses to move on, and there she was, alone with the crow she was supposed to wed.

No, she wasn’t exactly with him. She was beside him, which, fortunately, didn’t appear to be the same thing at all.

I also love a story where two people love each other almost from the beginning and that it is so obvious that the way the characters declare their love mirrors this obviousness. In this case, Sheffield declaring his love: “”Do you know I love you, Diana?” he said fiercely.”Do you know that of me?”” I’m reading this and yelling at the pages, “YES! SHE KNOWS! WE KNOW, SHEFFIELD!”

I loved these characters.

I give When the Duke Found Love 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Here is my favorite thing about this series: the books are all different enough that if you like regency romances, you will love at least one of them, if not more. And they all have a different tone that is true to the characters that Bradford paints.

These books were refreshing and fun. And after I finished When the Duke Found Love, I found myself thinking “Isabella Bradford, where have you been all my life?”

I sincerely hope we see more Bradford works in the future.

**Note: I’ve added When the Duchess Said Yes and When the Duke Found Love to “My Favorite Romance Novels” list.

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2 thoughts on “Isabella Bradford, Where Have You Been All My Life?

  1. What a coincidence! I bought the first book because it’s Susan Holloway Scott’s debut as Isabella Bradford. (I’ve never read her historical fiction books, though.)

    I’m glad you reviewed all 3 books in the series in one go — based on your summaries, it seems the second and third books have better stories than the first — something to look forward to. 😉

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