Tempting the Bride

Tempting the Bride  - Sherry Thomas If you've read the previous books in this series -- or the erotic short story "written" by Hastings, "the Bride of Larkspear," you'll know there's several ways this enemies-to-lovers story could have gone. One would have been for Helena's indiscretions with her married lover to have forced her to marry Hastings, as he half expected, dreaded, and fantasized about in "the Bride." Another would have been for Helena to have read the manuscript of "the Bride" that Hastings gave her in [b:Ravishing the Heiress|13051602|Ravishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, #2)|Sherry Thomas|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1326225990s/13051602.jpg|18216417], realized that his nasty exterior was a facade hiding his hopeless love for her, and reevaulated her own feelings towards him in light of that. Thomas chose to go a different route -- although the forced marriage does kinda sorta happen. An accident causes Helena to lose memories of half her life -- the half in which she knew Hastings. Which leaves her open to realizing that he's a very attractive man and intensely devoted to her.Since Helena has known Hastings since she was 14, her memory loss has to go back pretty far; however, for the story not to be extremely icky, she has to still feel herself to be a grown woman. I'm not sure how medically realistic this is -- though when you think about it, it's actually fairly plausible -- but it was a little jarring. Still, I liked that Helena was definitely still Helena, not a blank slate -- she's as tough, stubborn, and opinionated as ever. She isn't driven into Hastings' arms through feeling lost and vulnerable, as you might expect. And there's another way in which this isn't a typical amnesia romance: Hastings tells her the truth about their history.The emotion in this story comes primarily from Hastings -- finally getting the chance to earn Helena's love, but knowing that at any second it could be snatched away from him. I was touched when Helena, not realizing it's for the second time, sees the rooms he had prepared and painted for her -- "taking in the panorama that had taken him years to complete, through many a frustrated Season, when reaching her had seemed no more feasible than holding starlight in his hands." Not only is she then emotionally able to fully appreciate what he did, but he is finally able to admit that yes, he had gone to a great deal of trouble specifically to please her, rather than passing it off as nothing.I have to agree with other reviewers that this story wasn't as rich or emotional as Thomas' previous work; in fact, "the Bride" was not just filthier, but considerably angstier. I was a little bummed that here Hastings explains the history of "the Bride" to Helena before she reads it; I would have really enjoyed seeing her figure out that the unnamed woman in the story is her. Also, the story is a little too similar to [b:Ravishing the Heiress|13051602|Ravishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, #2)|Sherry Thomas|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1326225990s/13051602.jpg|18216417] (in fact, every member of the Fitzhugh family was the object of long-term unrequited love in this series. It should be called, "There's Something About the Fitzhughs.") It's still very well written, and the banter between Helena and Hastings is sharp and witty, especially when playfulness is added to the mix. But I hope to see Thomas go back to the more powerful writing of her standalone books.