Lord Nicholas Westhawke is a widowed earl living in his remote castle in Cornwall with his daughter Rosemund. She’s growing up wild and friendless, needs a woman’s nurturing care, and the housekeeper has made it clear that she is not a nanny. Nicholas has been corresponding with, and has arranged to marry Sylvia, a noted American academic famous for her treatise The Dracula Myth in England. Nicholas works at night and sleeps all day so he sees this as instant compatibility.
Angela Lancini, 30, virgin, biological clock ticking, brand-new M. Ed, has just left Frankie Mancini at the altar after realizing that the aforementioned adjectives didn’t mean she had to marry the guy she’s known all her life. After fleeing to the airport in her totally 80s wedding dress and $100, she runs into Sylvia, who has also has cold feet. While helping Angela change out of her wedding dress, Sylvia convinces Angela to take her ticket to England and tell Nicholas she isn’t coming.
Here is where the story gets weird, and it’s only page 15. Angela gets picked up at the airport by a creepy driver, only to fall asleep and then awaken to find herself and her luggage on the side of the road with the driver gone. As Angela wonders what she will do since she has no idea where she is, the now-cloaked driver returns with a carriage and team of horses to drive her up to the castle.
She’s taken to a bedroom and finds herself locked in while she’s taking a bath. When she gets out, luggage is gone and her wedding dress is on the bed, ready for the midnight ceremony conducted in Middle English. Angela is confused, and so am I. For some reason, Nicholas thought this whole setup, including keeping his bride locked in her room, would appeal to Sylvia because of the nature of her studies.
Saving us all from a long stretch of “What will he do when he finds out I’m not Sylvia?” Nicholas immediately recognizes that Angela is not Sylvia. Angela tries to tell Nicholas what happened, but when she is stressed out, she loses her voice, and Nicholas uses this to his advantage as he interrupts her every attempt to tell him what happened.
Later, Nicholas tries (but not really very hard) to find out what really happened to Sylvia. He also calls Angela (and only Angela) “luv” constantly, which, in my head, is pronounced differently than “love” and just didn’t seem like something an earl would say. Angela gets locked back in her room. Fortunately, Frankie’s a locksmith who taught Angela how to pick a lock.
Unfortunately, Nicholas has double deadbolts on the outside of the door that he puts to use once Angela busts out the first time. Since she is locked in her room, Angela tries to escape by tying the bed sheets together and using them as a rope. Too bad she wore a suit and heels instead of the jeans and sneakers she packed in her suitcase. While escaping, she sees Nicholas doing something that causes what appear to be ghosts to materialize, then the half-wolf dog alerts the castle to her whereabouts.
Since Nicholas won’t let her leave until he finds out about Sylvia, Angela decides to make the best of it, and they carry on the charade of being married. Frankie and The Boys, found Sylvia at the airport (how?) and while trying to find out where Angela is, keep Sylvia stashed at a hideout. Sylvia develops a real attraction to, and for, Frankie, who turned out to be a really sweet and thoughtful man.
Angela meets the dragon-lady relative of Nicholas and gains her approval. All it takes is an American meal of hot dogs, baked beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and instant mac and cheese. Served on the good china, of course. At some point they leave the castle and go to a party at a hotel where Frankie and The Boys arrive to take Angela back.
There was also a two or three page subplot involving Frankie’s dad Sal, a former Mob man, and Angela’s godfather and his attempts to go straight and keep ahead of the Feds, and Rosemund makes an appearance a time or two to do precocious things. Nicholas’ mysterious nighttime doings also get explained, but in the end, it didn’t seem to have as much impact on the story as it could have, or was meant to.
The Wrong Wife? is a convoluted mash-up of stock characters and plot contrivances that don’t work well together at all. I would like to say that I can see what the author was trying to do here, but I can’t because I didn’t. This book just had too much going on and felt more like absurd events strung together than actual story. Grade D-. I liked the 10 or so pages devoted to Sylvia and Frankie, so no F.
Please make sure to check the other participants of the TBR Challenge this month by visiting here.
Corrected: Harlequin Temptation to Harlequin Romance.