Why I read it: One from my TBR. I was in the mood for something immersive and, after checking at the back to make sure it had a happy ending (it does) I dove in with a happy sigh.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) After a tumultuous year, Sophie Scaife’s relationship with her boyfriend and Dom, billionaire media mogul Neil Elwood, is hotter and happier than ever. His sizzling Dominant side pushes Sophie to new and challenging heights of submission and erotic exploration as she follows her Sir’s every whim. But with his daughter’s impending wedding and a milestone birthday turning Neil’s thoughts toward settling down, Sophie faces a much different future than she’d planned.
Caught in a conflict between her new wealth and her desire for independence, Sophie fears she’s becoming just another Fifth Avenue trophy wife. With her fashion journalism career over and her new effort as a writer uninspiring, Sophie has to work harder than ever to prove her intentions to Neil’s family and friends.
Sophie isn’t the only one struggling to adapt to her new lifestyle. When private jets and designer labels threaten her bond with Holli, Sophie finds herself walking a fine line between the world she now inhabits and the past—and people—she fears she’s left behind. After a shocking revelation divides her loyalties, Sophie is in danger of losing her best friend or fracturing the trust of the man she loves.
Warning: Series Spoilers follow
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I really love this series. There is something very comforting about reading a book about characters you already know (provided the ending is happy). The usual set up stuff is not really required because the reader already knows the characters. There’s a brief recap to help people catch up but it’s familiar territory right from the start.
The advantage of this book for me was probably also it’s disadvantage. Apparently I like to be contrary. The stakes in The Girlfriend were very high – Neil was dying of cancer. It’s very likely the only reason he survived was because he was the hero in a romance novel and it’s against the rules for him to die. (A thing I was very glad about.) The previous book was filled with delicious angst and all the feels. This book has a more subtle conflict and the subject matter isn’t literally life and death.
I’m glad I didn’t read it straight away after reading the previous two books because I think I would not have appreciated the lower conflict as much. I think it may have seemed a bit anticlimactic. However, I was in the mood for a book which was going to hit my emotional buttons without being too draining and with The Bride, I got just what I wanted.
I had been a bit worried that Neil and Sophie would spend some of this book apart. I was very glad to be wrong on that. There is some conflict and tension between them throughout the course of the book but they work through it like mature adults and this pleased me in all the ways. Sophie has shown that she’s grown since the events of the first book and she’s clearly made her choice – in a conflict between Neil and anyone else, she will choose Neil. Even though the book is told from Sophie’s first person POV, there is plenty of Neil as well and I was convinced that Neil feels the same way. That’s not to say Neil didn’t have some work to do – he did. He has to learn to tell Sophie what he’s feeling and thinking without being so concerned it will hurt her feelings that he says nothing. They are in therapy and it is really helping.
Neil also has some PTSD from his hospital experience and this will be an ongoing issue for him. I would have liked a little more exposition here. At one point in the story Sophie mentioned that sometimes he needs to ask for her help and I’d have liked to have seen that happening because I found it hard to picture. I’m curious enough to want to know what that might look like and my imagination failed me there.
Sophie has a falling out with her best friend Holli and that is the major conflict of the book. Which in some ways is strange because it’s not a conflict between the hero and heroine. It makes sense in the context of this series and I liked the way concepts of hurt and forgiveness were handled here. It’s very much the way I’m wired too – I will tend to putting a relationship first over being right or holding on to hurt. In the end, Sophie does a cost/benefit analysis and, for her, the relationship and it’s inherent value is more important. (She’s not the only one who does this.). While that doesn’t always happen, and sometimes the cost/benefit analysis turns out the other way, I liked her more gentle way of arguing. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently because reasons. I read a book ages ago by Linda Goodman called Love Signs. It was when I was in my teen astrology phase (yes you should totally roll your eyes here). In the book she opens every chapter with a quote from Peter Pan by JM Barrie and there are also poems within the book which I believe she wrote herself. Some of them have stuck with me even though I am long past my flirtation with astrological matchmaking. One of them went like this: “Some people love with restraint as if they were someday to hate. But we hated gently, carefully as if we were someday to love.” I’m the latter type of person and it seems that Sophie is too. I’ve never thought a scorched earth policy does anyone any good. But that’s just me.
I did like that there was a focus on the friendship between Holli and Sophie and that its importance was not understated. Their relationship was changing but their connection, in many ways, became more important because of it.
Their friendship was also where some of the humour of the book could be found (particularly the early part of the story). I enjoy Ms. Barnette’s writing style and the easy, contemporary voice she has.
“Annika has to stop referring to her kid’s age in months.” She rolled her eyes. “Tell me you will never, ever let me be like that . If I call you up and tell you that my little Jackson just graduated law school at two-hundred eighty-eight months, pepper spray me in the eyes.”
There is some conflict between Neil and Sophie which comes later in the book and was thankfully short-lived. I love characters who learn and who make smart decisions and who talk to each other so this hit all of my good book buttons.
What else? There is also development of Sophie’s and Neil’s sexual relationship, with some pretty hot scenes which involved *cough* lots and lots of lube *cough* and Neil’s interlude with Emir (which was the subject of the short The Hook-Up) takes place in the midst of The Bride. I’d be very happy to read more about Emir (*hint hint*) either in his own book/s or with Neil and Sophie.
The story flowed easily and there was passion and humour and intelligent communication. There were things which may or may not go anywhere in future books and there were things where I was surprised (pleasantly so) by Sophie’s realisation of another perspective and her maturity in dealing with others who were being petty. I do adore Neil and Sophie together. For all their differences, they fit and they adore each other. There is a breathlessness to their connection as well as solid grounding which pleases me to read about.
It doesn’t have the same emotional highs and lows of the previous books and for that reason my grade is a little lower, but it is still a very good read and it was perfect for me at the time.