I've been dying to read Lady Annabelle Wylde's story ever since I read "The Chance." Somehow, even though Lady Annabelle was an incredibly spoilt flirt in that story and very obviously the character we were all supposed to dislike and despise, she still managed to capture all my attention and my sympathy. So that I was quite ecstatic to realise that "To Wed A Stranger" featured Lady Annabelle as a heroine. Was it worth the wait? I, definitely thought so.
After having literally thrown herself at three different men over the past few London Seasons only to have them marry elsewhere, Lady Annabelle Wylde has become the focal point of some rather unpleasant gossip. So that when her father arranges a marriage for her with Miles Croft, Viscount Pelham, she reluctantly agrees to the union. Having given up on the notion that she'll ever marry for love, what else can she do save agree to an arranged marriage?
Miles Croft needs a socially prominent and accepted wife to help him repair his family's reputation which his scoundrel of a stepfather had destroyed quite thoroughly before he died. And after having noticed how Lady Annabelle carried herself and dealt with the ton in spite of all the unkind gossip, he's sure that she is the one who can help him do this. Of course there is the added bonus that Lady Annabelle also happens to be incredibly beautiful as well. And Miles is sure that this arrangement will work very well. Until everything goes terribly wrong during their wedding journey, when Lady Annabelle falls dangerously ill and looses most of her spectacular looks. Now, Miles is irrevocably tied to stranger he barely knows and has little in common with. Can he still look to Lady Annabelle to help him with his family now that she has lost her looks? And can this marriage really work given that he's not in love with his wife and is no longer attracted to her?
Ever since she was old enough to attend social functions, Lady Annabelle has used her beauty to prop herself up and to get what she wants. But now that she's no longer to spectacular Lady Annabelle, she's had to readjust her idea of who and what she is, and how Miles fits into everything. And the one thing she's come to realise is that there is a lot more to her than just her beauty. But can she get Miles to see this? For Lady Annabelle is beginning to realise that she may be falling in love with her kind and patient husband. But what of his feelings for her? Has Lady Annabelle lost her heart again to someone who doesn't return her feelings?
If you're looking for something that has nothing to do with the usual -- heroine at risk of her life subplot, or the spies and murderers that lurk in the bushes and drawing rooms subplot, or even the rakish hero pursuing/seducing innocent feisty heroine subplot -- then "To Wed A Stranger" would definitely do. It's a romance novel all about the relationship and love that develops and blossoms between two strangers who just happen to be married to each other. It's also about how a young woman who has always used her beauty to get her own way, now adjusts to the knowledge that she has, temporarily as least lost some of those looks, and resolves to be more than just a pretty face. This book is a really good example of Edith Layton's writing at her best, and gives one an inkling as to why so many consider her to be one of the best Regency-era romance novelists around. I liked how she developed the characters in this book, and how she allowed the novel to unfold in a smooth and even pace. True the ending was a bit rushed. I would have preferred a little bit more of a resolution to the subplot dealing with Miles' mother. And it would have been nice if Lady Annabelle's mother had been featured a lot more -- that would have made it a 10 star book for me! On the whole though, if you're looking for a good read that is a little more character driven and that is not the usual, "To Wed A Stranger" should definitely satisfy.