What does a lady do when a man she’s never seen before offers his hand in marriage? Lady Sophronia Bettesford doesn’t scream and run away. Instead, she accepts the shocking proposition. After all, what’s her other choice? To live with her cousin, caring for six children and a barnyard full of chickens?
James Archer has roamed the world, determined never to settle down. He’s faced danger and disaster…he fears nothing and no one—except his mother and her matchmaking ways. So when ordered to attend a Christmastime house party filled with holiday cheer and simpering young misses, he produces—a fiancée!
Sophronia and James vow to pretend to be in love for one month. But when they promise to give each other a Christmas kiss, it becomes clear that this pact made out of necessity might just be turning into love.
“Excuse me, miss,” a gentleman said in her ear. She jumped, so lost in her own foolish (fowlish?) thoughts that she hadn’t even noticed him approaching her.
She turned and looked at him, blinking at his splendor. He was tall, taller than her, even, which was a rarity among gentlemen. He was handsome in a dashing rosy-visioned way that made her question just what her imagination was thinking if it had never inserted him—or someone who looked like him–into her dreams.
He had unruly dark brown hair, longer than most gentlemen wore. The ends curled up as though even his hair was irrepressible. His eyes were blue, and even in the dark gloom, she could see they practically twinkled.
As though he and she shared a secret, a lovely, wonderful, delightful secret.
Never mind that all those words were very similar to one another. Her word-specific father would reprimand her—if that gentle soul could reprimand someone, that is—if he heard how cavalierly she was tossing out adjectives that all meant nearly the same thing.
But he wasn’t here, was he, which was why she was here, and now she was about to find out why this other he was here.
Far too many pronouns. Her attention returned to the tall, charming stranger.
Who was talking to her. Waiting for her response, actually, since she had spent a minute or so contemplating his general magnificence. And words, and her father, and whatever other non-chickened thoughts had blessedly crossed her mind.
“Can I help you, sir?” Sophronia asked. He was probably lost on his way to the Handsome Hotel where they only allowed Exceedingly Handsome guests.
That he might think she’d know where the Handsome Hotel was gave her pause. Because she was not handsome, not at all.
But what he said was next was even more unexpected than being asked to provide directions to some establishment where one’s appearance was the only requirement for entry.
“Would you marry me?” he said in a normal tone of voice as though he hadn’t just upended Sophronia’s entire world.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon Impulse (November 2015)
Time and Setting:
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars
Review by Sara
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas(!) in Romancelandia. Megan Frampton’s No Groom at the Inn uses its Christmastime setting to good effect, borrowing some of the season’s spirit to bring a wandering soul together with one looking for a place to belong.
The holidays are a time where families want to get together, but for Sophronia Bettesford the journey to see hers is less than joyful. Her father passed on leaving her nothing to live on so she is forced to fall on a cousin’s charity. The brief stop at a coaching inn is also her final glimpse eof freedom before becoming an unpaid servant in her cousin’s household. Her daydreams of independence and a small house of her own are interrupted by the most handsome man she’s encountered, with the strangest proposal she’s ever heard.
Getting together for the holidays with family is something James Archer wants no part of. Manipulated into attending a house party with his mother is the last thing a man like James needs when there is business to handle and beautiful women to seduce. Knowing that any conversation with his mother will lead to questions about his future James feels he’ll be safe if he creates an illusion that he’s ready to settle down, including a fake fiancée. Meeting Sophronia at the inn is fortuitous to his plan and he quickly bargains with her to join him in the charade.
As the festive spirit takes a hold of James and Sophronia it slowly changes their arrangement, blurring the lines between what is part of their fake relationship and what is building into something real.
James’s character is written in such a way that I’m not quite sure if I found him likeable or not. He comes across as self-assured, competitive and a bit cocky but those aren’t necessarily bad qualities for a hero to have. He never uses these traits to hurt Sophronia and in fact most of them become highly attractive to her as they come to know one another. He is a strong personality who is used to getting what he wants, and the shorter story length I didn’t get to see much of a vulnerable side to him which is important to even out a character.
Sophronia is a good balance to James, and this helps to make their fast-developing romance believable. Where he is gregarious, she is more introspective and quiet. Her fears about her future allow her to appreciate every moment at the party and enjoy being with James for the time that they have together. As Sophronia looks to create a permanent place for herself it also lets James believe that he can settle down himself rather than run from one distraction to the next. I enjoyed how they played off of one another to find the fun in their relationship even if it started under dubious circumstances.
Ms. Frampton’s writing style is very informal, so her characters speak with a contemporary voice rather than one befitting their times. I was pulled out of the story abruptly when during an emotional scene for James and Sophronia one of them used the word “smush.” In the context of the scene I understand the use of the word but it is too much of an anachronism to overlook. From that point and reading forward I started paying closer attention to the word use in the story rather than the characters and the plot itself, so my enjoyment of the building relationship and the final payoff was diminished. Since I was reading an early copy of the story I hope that an editor will perhaps change the word into something more time-appropriate.
No Groom at the Inn tells a very cute story, keeping a light tone while still having a good emotional core. Readers will enjoy this quick read that ushers in some warmer feelings in the wintery months.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Megan Frampton writes historical romance under her own name and romantic women’s fiction as Megan Caldwell. She likes the color black, gin, dark-haired British men, and huge earrings, not in that order. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son.