I had not followed my own advice by “reading the first few pages and then skipping forward to check on the canoodling to make sure there will be no unpleasant surprises” before taking this book out of the library. When I made the cursory check later, I decided to read it anyway because, you see, When She Said I Do is a historical romance of the non-vanilla variety. I don’t know what the opposite of vanilla is in this context, chocolate I suppose, so, following this logic, I’d say this novel is grocery store brand vanilla chocolate chip ice cream sparsely populated with chocolate flakes and then one or two chocolate chunks thrown in for verisimilitude.
The story opens with a carriage accident in the Cotswolds. The heroine, an eccentric ray of sunshine named Calliope, and her commensurately odd family find their way to a deserted manor house and take shelter. Wet, barefoot and in her shift, Calliope decides to explore the house and is discovered by its scarred and tantalizing master. He makes somewhat free with her body, she finds she doesn’t really mind, and when her brother shows up, things rapidly proceed through fight, duel, and wedding, until Beauty is alone with her hooded husband, The Beast. Ren (Lawrence) offers Calliope a bargain for her freedom. She will receive a pearl each time she submits to his desires and can leave when she has refilled the necklace they were taken from.
Although Celeste Bradley is quite funny and does interior monologue well, I had my usual romance novel timeline, inconsistency, and overwrought plotting complaints about When She Said I Do. The odd seeming juxtaposition of typical storyline with the darker sexual elements was interesting to me, if unromantic. Ren and Calliope were typical love story characters who just happened to share the same proclivities. Fair enough. I don’t know if all of Bradley’s books follow this theme and I’m not sure I can be bothered to find out, but When She Said I Do certainly made for a change of pace.