The first book in Catherine Coulter's beloved Bride series. Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe, marries the wrong woman--only to find himself haunted by a bride of an entirely different kind.
In a display of what poses as wit in this Regency novel, the first of a trilogy, Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe, tells his wife Alexandra that she is ``as amusing as a boil on a backside.'' Unfortunately, he's right. Worse, bestselling romancer Coulter's ( Earth Song ) lame story is no more amusing. The tale begins when Douglas is dispatched to France on a secret mission for the British government just as he is to marry the beautiful Melissande Chambers. He sends his cousin Tony Parrish to act as his proxy during the ceremony, but the bride and substitute groom fall in love and elope. They return to carry on with the proxy wedding, making Melissande's younger sister Alexandra the bride. Douglas is predictably annoyed when he returns and arrogantly makes this very clear to his unwanted wife. He rebuffs Alexandra's attempts to earn his favor until she wises up and tries to run off; then he decides to keep her. To prevent things from getting too cozy Coulter resurrects the poorly developed spy subplot and has Alexandra kidnapped. Douglas and Tony take off in pursuit, evil is vanquished and everybody who is supposed to be happy ends up that way. (Apr.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 01, 1992
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Excerpt from The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter
Near New Romney, England
"I SAW HER last night -- the Virgin Bride!"
"Oh no, not really? Truly, Sinjun? You swear you saw the ghost?"
There were two shuddering gasps and fluttery cries of mingled fear and excitement.
"Yes, it had to be the Virgin Bride."
"Did she tell you she was a virgin? Did she tell you anything? Weren't you terrified? Was she all white? Did she moan? Did she look more dead than alive?"
Their voices grew fainter, but he still heard the gasps and giggles as they moved away from the estate room door.
Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe, closed the door firmly and walked to his desk. That damned ghost! He wondered if the Sherbrookes were fated to endure unlikely tales of this miserable young lady throughout eternity. He glanced down at the neat piles of papers, sighed, then sat himself down and looked ahead at nothing at all.
The earl frowned. He was frowning a lot these days for they were keeping after him, not letting up for a day, not for a single hour. He was bombarded by gentle yet insistent reminders day in and day out with only slight variations on the same dull theme. He must needs marry and provide an heir for the earldom. He was getting older, every minute another minute ticked away his virility, and that virility was being squandered, according to them, for from his seed sprang future Sherbrookes, and this wondrous seed of his must be used legitimately and not spread haphazardly about, as warned of in the Bible.
He would be thirty on Michaelmas, they would say, all those uncles and aunts and cousins and elderly retainers who'd known him since he'd come squalling from his mother's womb, all those sniggering rotten friends of his, who, once they'd caught onto the theme, were enthusiastic in singing their own impertinent verses. He would frown at all of them, as he was frowning now, and he would say that he wasn't thirty on this Michaelmas, he was going to be twenty-nine on this Michaelmas, therefore on this day, at this minute, he was twenty-eight, and for God's sake, it was only May now, not September. He was barely settled into his twenty-eighth year. He was just now accustoming himself to saying he was twenty-eight and no longer twenty-seven. Surely his wasn't a great age, just ample.
The earl looked over at the gilded ormolu clock on the mantel. Where was Ryder? Damn his brother, he knew their meetings were always held on the first Tuesday of every quarter, here in the estate room of Northcliffe Hall at precisely three o'clock. Of course, the fact that the earl had only initiated these quarterly meetings upon his selling out of the army some nine months before, just after the signing of the Peace of Amiens, didn't excuse Ryder for being late for this, their third meeting. No, his brother should be censured despite the fact that Douglas's steward, Leslie Danvers, a young man of industrious habits and annoying memory, had reminded the earl just an hour before of the meeting with his brother.
It was the sudden sight of Ryder bursting into the estate room, windblown, smelling of leather and horse and the sea, alive as the wind, showing lots of white teeth, very nearly on time -- it was only five minutes past the hour -- that made the earl forget his ire. After all, Ryder was nearing an ample age himself. He was very nearly twenty-six.
The two of them should stick together.
"Lord, but it's a beautiful day, Douglas! I was riding with Dorothy on the cliffs, nothing like it, I tell you, nothing!" Ryder sat down, crossed his buckskin legs, and provided his brother more of his white-toothed smile.