Book Review: “The Bachelor and the Bride,” by Sarah M. Eden

Merriest of holidays to all who celebrated this week, and wishing everyone a healthy, safe, and quiet (at least, that’s what I need!) new year. I finished my 2022 reading goal number (60!) as of October, and ever since, reading has been pure gravy. On the one hand, I love challenges, and I have learned over the years to set normal goals. On the other hand, it feels stressful and sets arbitrary numbers to an otherwise leisurely hobby. However, never not going to do the challenge. It is always fun looking at the number.

On to the more important matters, I read Sarah Eden‘s latest Dread Penny Society book, The Bachelor and the Bride, as soon as it came out. This is the first book in the series I haven’t read as an ARC, but I take that as a good sign because there was so much demand for the ARC (prior reviews for book 1, book 2, and book 3 for your reading pleasure). Book four was just as much fun, with the Dread Penny Society’s Doc Milligan (Baz to friends) as the leading man and his surprising wife Gemma. This series is like fine wine.


From the Publisher:

London, 1866

Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society.

Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by secretly marrying her to protect her from her family of notorious grave robbers.

But six months after Gemma and Barnabus exchanged vows, she realized her love for her new husband was unrequited. To protect her heart, she left, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grew beyond a sense of duty.

When Barnabus sends a letter to Gemma inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But unfortunately, he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power.

Heartbroken, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he’ll never see her again.

Yet as the couple follows the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London’s criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma’s life might now save Barnabus—and his lonely heart.

But before the once-confirmed bachelor can properly court his secret bride, they’ll need to evade the dangerous forces that are drawing ever closer to the hopeful lovers and the entire Dread Penny Society itself.


What I loved:

  • Historical Backdrop. As with all of the Penny Dreadful books, Bachelor‘s mid-1800s London is a combination of grit and glitz. The streets are dirty, the gangs are rough, and the grave robbers are prolific. At this time in history, doctors were paying grave robbers to dig up bodies for medical research. Of course, some of those bodies are less dead than others. I loved that this installation leans heavily on such an interesting time and facts from history. Combined with Baz’s compelling backstory that speaks to the immigrant woman’s experience, Bachelor was engaging and made me want to learn more.
  • Baz and Gemma. While I hate the marriage for convenience, lack of communication trope (more below), Baz and Gemma are adorable together. Gemma is larger than life, a sweetheart who is cheerful and always kind, while Baz is quiet and introspective, does not talk about his life but a knight in shining armor to women in need. Gemma makes Baz smile and laugh when no one else can, and Baz keeps Gemma grounded. Opposites do sometimes attract, and here, it works perfectly.
  • The “Big Twist.” I obviously can’t write out what the cliffhanger ending revealed. But wow, it was a doozy. It felt like almost cathartic after the build up in this series.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

  • Lack of Communication. I hate the lack of communication trope found in so many romance novels. It feels very teenager – how many adult relationships aren’t on talking and letting your partner know how you feel? Baz not adequately explaining his feelings to Gemma, and Gemma stewing internally for most of the book, was stressful. You want to yell through the pages, “Talk to each other!”
  • The Penny Dreadfuls. It has always been a pet peeve of mine that Sarah Eden has the stories interspersed among the chapters. Bachelor was no exception. Baz’s story was just slightly odd, and King’s story was good but unnecessary. I still wish these were in the end.

Conclusion:

Sarah Eden writes a mean historical fiction. While the romances are always less central to the plot, each couple is cute and add color to a robust series. The Bachelor and the Bride adds another layer of intrigue, history, mystery and romance, and this series gets better with each book. Four waves! Get your copy here, and if you want to read from book one, pick up The Lady and the Highwayman here.

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