I had no inkling when I bought this book for an unbelievable bargain price of Rs.25 from a shady corner in Janpath flea market that I am going to be in for such a treat. This book, however, surpassing all my expectations took me on a glorious journey of romance and passion, one I am not likely to get over for at least some months to come.
The Perfect Bride is seventh in the sequence of de Warren dynasty books- historical romance penned by the much loved spinner of compelling tales of passion- Brenda Joyce. In the beautiful and flowing language of Joyce, it narrates the love story, of Blanche Harrington and Rex de Warren, a perfect English woman and a damaged war hero. Blanche is a fine, dignified, composed and graceful woman, who ails from a dark past. She has a family fortune to manage, and hence an immediacy to marry and settle down with one of the 228 suitors lined up for her. She, however, has always been smitten by an old family friend, Sir Rex de Warren. On his part Sir Rex is also more than fond of Lady Blanche, but he is the classic de Warren hero- intense, regal, powerful and not easily the emotive one. He, I reiterate, represents the classic hero from English historical romances- he is a recluse, not for once wanting to adhere to or participate in the customs of English polite society. He has a tortured past, a heartache and a lost leg, and he prefers the confines of his estate at all times, abhorring any company except for that of the charming Lady Blanche.
Common friends connive to bring together Blanche and Rex, but the scene of their re-acquaintance is what neither of them could have imagined or wished for. Upon her visit, Blanche finds him in a compromising situation with his maid. He, of course is flushed with awkwardness and embarrassment. But that is where the beauty of their latent love becomes visible. Their fondness for each other is based not on physical attraction or lust, but enormous mutual respect for each other. The forgettable reunion is soon left behind, and a tale of haunting romance is set on course.
However, here is where the flames of Lady Blanche’s dark past are reignited. This is the point of ‘crisis‘ in their love story- but this is not the stereotypical impediment you would expect in the way of two lovers who yearn togetherness. ‘Sanity‘, for all you lovers of romance, would not form one of the usual hindrances in the consummation of a love story. Blanche, as we come to know, has been rendered incapable of all emotions following the traumatic death of her mother. She has an unnatural composure; more apt to say that she is simply passionless. Rex de Warren, with his inveigling persona, however, changes that for her. Their growing intimacy leads them to a night of intense passion, following which Blanche’s emotions reawaken, and that too with shocking intensity. Her heart, which she deemed was hard as glass, undergoes an admirable thaw under Rex’s embrace, but not all for good. Accompanying the new found feeling of love and passion are horrifying memory trips back to the death scene of Blanche’s mother. She has episodes of dementia. She shrieks. She’s petrified. She discovers that all truth about her mother’s death had been concealed from her. She feels she is losing her sanity day by day. And the only way to protect her, she feels is to shut herself from all feelings of love which are beginning to melt her hard acquired equanimity. In a desperate logic acquired from panic, she decides to run away from everything that caused these paroxysms of insanity to ruin her peace- including Rex.
Thus our lovers are torn apart. In the almost velvety narrative, I found myself many a times weeping, many a times frustrated, because more eager than them was I to see Rex and Blanche together. This love story was unique in many ways. The underlying emotion, the desires, the end might remain the same for most mushy romances, but the path this book treads on was definitely not run-of-the-mill. Here we are not talking of love at first sight, or some mundane physical attraction which leads to intensified lust and passion. Here we encounter long sustained, yet dormant feeling of love borne out of remarkable mutual respect between the protagonists. ‘Sanity’, as I mentioned, as the main conflict in the storyline adds another dimension to the intrigue which compels a reader to keep turning pages. You would, however, want to pause a few times to absorb the beauty of certain heartwarming scenes described unto perfection by the seasoned love ink of Brenda Joyce.
My favorite parts in the book begin after the introduction of the conflict. That is where the narrative acquires pace. And what might touch you most is the point in the book where Rex decides to watch over and take care of Blanche as she battles her terrifying memories, knowing very well that he is the person keeping her away from himself. So, in order to help her, he needs to restrain completely his emotions for her. It is concern, care and selflessness which then helps sustain whatever little love they had experienced in each others embrace.
Sigh. It is a lovely read. A perfect wintry read. Tucked away in your quilt, with moist eyes and a cold red nose, trust me, this is the book you want in your hands even if you’re half as much a romantic as I am.
Reviewed by: Saumya Kulshreshtha