Unexpectedly Wed to the Officer by Jenni Fletcher
Scandal, romance and more feature in this delightful Regency novel full of humour, realistic dialogue and biscuits. Featuring an independent heroine who is trying to do her best as a businesswoman, aunt and defender of her shop, this book also introduces a naval officer who makes several discoveries about a woman who hates compliments. When Henrietta attacks a mysterious intruder, she little suspects that he knows a lot about Belles, the biscuit shop she manages with the redoubtable Nancy. Sebastian is a hero who admits he has a lot to learn about people, especially a woman who is sensitive about her past. The responsibility for three boys is a sudden burden in this novel which looks at the complications of families in a different world, but one which has familiar echoes for many of us. This book is actually part of a series that tells the story of those women who work in Belles Biscuit shop, but there is no need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one; there are many references to characters in the previous novel, which are sufficient. This book is very much Henrietta and Sebastian’s story, full of the doubts, challenges and twists which make it truly entertaining throughout. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book opens with Sebastian, brother of Anna, the absent shop owner, discovering that during his absence at sea over several years much has changed in the shop that used to be run by his family. After nearly breaking his nose, Henrietta allows him to camp in the downstairs room, only to be woken by her assistant Nancy conducting a similar attack on him, not knowing of his existence. He notices Henrietta’s extreme attractiveness, despite her attempts to dress down and her coldness, and he thinks about hurrying to see his family. However, his attention is taken by Henrietta’s three nephews, who soon claim him as an important figure in their lives, as their father is struggling with grief for his late wife. Almost despite herself, Henrietta begins to relax in the company of such a thoughtful and helpful man, but has such overwhelmingly bad memories of previous relationships and the gossip that they attracted that she resolves to pull back from any further involvement. It is perhaps when other people get involved, and a mysterious stranger appears to need help, that they discover that significant action must be taken.
This book is truly a joy to read, especially as Regency stories hold a particular attraction at the moment. It is delightful escapism, and has some genuinely very funny elements, including Nancy who frequently lets fly with her observations and opinions concerning everything. The family theme works well, and there is much more to this book than a straightforward romance. It is well paced and flows well, as it represents many of the responses and actions of the two main characters. The dialogue is lively and well written, and strikes a contemporary tone, though it is never anachronistic. This is a lovely book for anyone who enjoys a gentle escapist read, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic historical fiction.