The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie
Publication date: February 5, 2013
Series: Chance Sisters #1
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I'm a big fan of Cinderella-type stories where the impoverished heroine ends up with a handsome, dashing lord. This one is original and highly interesting, setting up the quartet of the Chance sisters.
Abigail Chantry is related to two esteemed families, but is sadly not acknowledge by either due to her parents having eloped. Ever since her parents' early deaths, Abby had grown up taking care of her sister Jane, working as a governess to support Jane's schooling. Just as Jane should be on the way work in a respectable household, Abby gets notified by Daisy, a brothel servant, that Jane had been abducted and about to be sold! Her job aside, Abby, with Daisy's help, managed to save her sister along with Damaris, someone who helped to prevent Jane from getting raped while at the brothel. Together, these four become the Chance sisters, people met by chance but held together by a sisterly bond. Their adventure continues as Abby, in an attempt to obtain money for them, tried to rob the house of Lady Beatrice Davenham...
As this book is the first in a series, quite a bit of it has been devoted to explaining the background of the Chance Sisters. However, Anne Gracie's moving prose and characterization establishes a good pacing, leaving space for both plot twists and relationship developments. The Autumn Bride is undoubtedly focused on its lead characters, Max, Lord Davenham, and Abby. Max inherited the earldom from his uncle right out of university, and was shocked the settling of his uncle's heavy debts on his. He was told that he must "sell everything" in order to pay the debts, but he refused to sell his aunt's residence and the family seat. Already his character is established as highly honorable and caring of his relatives, as well as perseverance as he spent the following 9 years in trade to repay all the debts. In this, he is a perfect match for Abby, who takes the role of the eldest and sacrifices her own comforts to care for her new "sisters." She is not idealistic nor a fool, knowing that she must sacrifice some morality for livelihood, for the sake of survival. I absolutely loved the conflicting struggles between honor and necessity in Max and Abby, showing their complexity and true strength.
The romance side of this novel is nicely done as well, and I would very highly recommend any romance reader to pick this up. It is simultaneously moving, beautiful, sweet, and passionate, and an absolute delight to read. I can't wait for the other Chance sisters' stories, as well as more of Max's partners in trade.
(As a side note, muffins are an inside joke in the story, and one you will definitely want to find out more about!)