Helena Fenster always dreamed of a family, children and her own household to manage, as any gently bred noblewoman should. However, after having an affair that left her ruined, Helena resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood, believing that no one would want to marry ‘soiled goods’.
But Rand Mallon, Earl of Dalby, is one of those exceptional men who would willingly take a non-virginal bride – so willing, in fact, that he would gladly claim any heir that Helena might have as a result of her indiscretion! Helena, on the other hand, is suspicious – why would any man be agreeable to a bride who has been ruined by another man? Rosaline, Helena’s twin, swears by Rand’s disposition and pushes Helena to marry her long-time friend. Of course, Helena knows that Ros is planning on jilting Rand and wants Helena to take her place at the altar – with Rand’s permission! After all, Rand and Ros’ marriage would have been of convenience only, tied by friendship but indifferent to their vices and other extra-marital activities. Helena would also have to agree to that if she married Rand – how else would she get her much coveted family and household?
Helena had always had a crush on Rand but obviously it was Ros’ company he enjoyed – it was friendly and platonic, just the way he liked it! Kelly McClymer clearly draws a differentiation between the twins – Helena, the rather introverted girl whose dreams are nothing original, and Rosaline, the outgoing, adventurous girl who dresses in men’s clothes to visit men’s gambling clubs! And it is this difference that convinces the reader to accept it when Rand realizes he prefers the softer Helena as a wife rather than the rambunctious Rosaline after all – regardless of the agreement!
Rand tries very hard to enjoy his wife in bed – and the book is full of sensual activities! But there is an underlying intrigue that explains Rand’s feigned indifference to Helena outside the bedroom – not so satisfying as the romance between Rand and Helena. In fact, it was mildly distracting as Helena and Rand separate on a couple of occasions, to divert Rand’s villainous grandfather, so to speak. But it resolves rather neatly (and quickly) at the end to produce the requisite happily-ever-after ending! The Next Best Bride is definitely one of the sensual romances that one would want to take the time to read and enjoy!