Actually, The Bridal Season comes first, but I read them in reverse order.
Bridal Favors: loved. It's a giantly fun Victorian romp with spies and a wedding and a spinster. And yet, it is in no way as stupid as it sounds. It could just be me, but the ugly spinster plot usually annoys the hell out of me. Evelyn Whyte is the aforementioned spinster -- she's actually not that old, but she's been told she's ugly and has been determined to absolutely ignore that and be as indispensable to her family as possible. And while some of the "oh he could never be attracted to me" thing got a little old, it was nowhere near as annoying as it usually is. Plus, Evelyn is smart and doesn't angst about it. And bonus points to Brockway for not having the stunning transformation effected after the heroine loses her glasses, which is of course the point the hero finally notices her. Instead, we've got Justin the spy, who does a bit of a Scarlet Pimpernel thing and acts about as silly and as foppish as possible. I adored Justin -- it's so nice to have a hero who isn't broody or macho at all. Justin falls for Evelyn (or Evie, to him) pretty quickly and in general has a great time talking to Evelyn and teasing her.
This is even more extraordinary when we find out that Justin had to give up his military career to be a spy and that his grandfather thinks he's the scummiest thing to walk the earth because of this. And yet, no angst! He's very blase about it and doesn't really care what his grandfather thinks because his parents were supportive anyway. Added to this, he loves Evelyn and thinks she's gorgeous without the entire glasses-makeover bit. So finally, a book in which the heroine isn't prettied up at the end and doesn't turn out to be drop dead gorgeous under the ugly dresses and the glasses. Plus, the book was just giantly fun to read, and I found myself laughing out loud for the sheer fun of it.
The Bridal Season: loved it even more! Because while I adored Justin, I adore Elliot even more -- nice, quiet, reserved hero. I like nice heroes. And Letty is an ex-confidence game runner! Seems like this is the thing suddenly going through all the romances I'm reading right now. Read the review at All About Romance, and they didn't like it quite as much, I think because they thought Elliot was boring. The premise sounded much worse -- Letty is running from Nick Sparkles, a con man she used to work with, and by chance happens upon a train ticket that belonged to an eloping wedding planner. She takes advantage and decides to be the planner for a day or two and then high tail it, but of course, emotional bonds ensue, she has to help out the family, and Elliot, the local magistrate, starts intriguing her.
And Elliot, the thoroughly respected, well loved guy in the town, gets to loosen up a bit. I don't know. I think I'm making it sound utterly stupid. But there's just something about the shyness and the seriousness of him that gets to me. Plus, I really like Letty as a heroine, who is not the sweetly innocent, absolutely darling girl that most heroines are. She is sweet in her own way, and innocent in her own way, and charming in her own way, but she doesn't grate on my nerves like most saintly heroines (or "spirited" ones). I am also a complete sucker for books when the hero falls in love with the heroine first and she turns out to be the skittish one. And by this I mean emotional commitment, as opposed to the I lust for you and will knock you down with my powerful kisses but will not love you because all women are money-grubbing sluts syndrome.
ETA: I also appreciate how there's a trial at the end in which Elliot does not try his best to get Letty off. Probably still some miscarriage of justice here, but not like the "trial" at the end of Oklahoma, which still annoys me.
I suspect the next post is going to be on romance kinks, which will probably be just too much information for everyone involved ;).
coffeeandink 's review of The Bridal Season