The Bridegroom Wore Plaid by Grace Burrowes was published on December 4, 2012. I received an advanced reader copy from Sourcebooks Casablanca.
In an effort to preserve the family estate, Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour, must marry for money. When a promising match emerges in the form of Genie Daniels, a rich English heiress, Ian begins devising a strategy to woo her. When he meets Genie’s poor cousin Augusta, he discovers a new avenue to Genie’s heart. But after spending time with Augusta and falling for her charms, Ian begins to question whether or not he’s willing to forfeit his heart to save the family name…
There is A LOT going on in this story.
First, there are a lot of characters:
- Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour
- Gilgallon (Ian’s brother)
- Connor (Ian’s brother)
- Mary Frances (Ian’s sister)
- Fiona (Mary Frances’ daughter)
- Willard Daniels, the Baron of Altsax and Gribbony
- Miss Eugenia (Genie) Daniels (Altsax and Gribbony’s daughter)
- Hester Daniels (Genie’s sister)
- Colonel Matthew Daniels (Genie’s brother)
- Mrs. Julia Redmond (Genie’s chaperone)
- Augusta Merrick (Genie’s cousin and chaperone)
Plenty of romance novels have a bunch of characters but this lot felt unruly. In the first quarter or so of the book, I often had to go back and re-read about a character in order to figure out whom they were related to and why they were in the story. It was distracting and frustrating as a reader.
Yet, Burrowes has a reason for all these characters and for making their presence within the book feel suffocating at times: it mirrors how both Ian and Augusta feel as members of these families.
But looking into a pair of earnest violet eyes, Ian realized he had something in common with [Augusta].
She was lonely and alone even among her family. She was more alone with her family around her, in fact.
Ian is looking for a rich wife. Genie’s father, Baron Altsax, is rich and ready to pawn Genie off on Ian. Ian was never supposed to be the Earl — that was to be his older brother, Asher, who took off for Canada and by the time of this story is presumed dead. But Ian can’t shirk his responsibility and so he does what he must.
Augusta is Genie’s impoverished cousin who has a very tense and strained relationship with her uncle, the Baron. She can’t leave his home because she has no where else to go but she hates the man.
Both Ian and Augusta are trapped in a life they didn’t choose and they are unhappy.
And they fall in love very quickly despite the fact that there is no way for them to have a relationship that does not cause grief and suffering for their families.
I appreciate that when Ian comes to Augusta’s room on the pretense of talking about Genie and everything quickly escalates toward them having sex, it is Augusta who articulates what them being together that night will mean:
“If we do this,” she took up the thought, “it can’t mean anything but some comfort stolen against the circumstances. It can’t lead to anything. It can’t mean anything, whether you marry Genie or some other woman.”
It is Ian who hesitates and Augusta who won’t hear it. She loves him, she wants to have sex with him, she understands the consequences and the larger context, and she just doesn’t care. Rock on, lady.
The entire sequence is bittersweet. Ian professes his love to her, they share this intimate night, and then she says to him, “No more words, Ian, except thank you, and I will cherish this memory more than you’ll ever know.”
She is my favorite part of this book.
There are other romance story lines happening in this book at the same time. Julia and Connor. Genie and Gilgallon. Matthew and Mary Frances. I found these to be as sweet as Ian and Augusta’s relationship. At the same time, I am always weary of novels where all these people trapped in a house together just happen to pair up nicely. Too convenient.
Overall, I enjoyed this Burrowes book.
I give The Bridegroom Wore Plaid 3.5 out of 5 stars.