No Groom at the Inn
($4.99 print, $1.99 e-book)
Happy Holidays, lovely romance enthusiasts! In honor of the upcoming festivities, I thought I’d get us in the holiday spirit with a review of a delightful novella by Megan Frampton. The adorably-punny No Groom At the Inn is everything you’d want in a holiday novella. It’s got a wonderfully absurd plot, a devil-may-care charmer, a fiercely independent and bookish heroine, and a touch of holiday cheer.
Lady Sophronia Bettesford is a down-on-her-luck daughter of an earl. Her father passed away penniless, leaving her to the mercy of her distant relations–specifically, an unappealing cousin who has offered her a rather bleak future of tending his children and his chickens. As Sophronia travels to this dim new life, she is approached by a handsome stranger who promptly proposes marriage!
Mr. Jamie Archer is in need of a fiancée– not a wife, strictly speaking– just the temporary illusion of a fiancée to appease his beloved, meddlesome mother. Jamie and Sophronia strike a deal: she will accompany him to a country house party over the holidays and pretend to be his fiancée.
Sophronia and Jamie are both incredibly likable characters, and Frampton does some impressive character development within the constraints of the shorter novella format. Sophronia’s father was an intellectual, somewhat reclusive earl who instructed her in all matter of peculiar things. She, as a result, is extremely intelligent and somewhat socially inexperienced. Jamie is an appealing opposite to Sophronia– while certainly not unintelligent, his primary characteristic is his social ease and charm. Jamie does not wish to marry while Sophronia yearns for a family of her own. The balance between the two characters is deftly handled– what could easily turn into an opposites attract romance novel cliché is instead a powerful tool in the hands of Frampton. The differences, and more subtle similarities, between the Sophronia and Jamie are what ultimately bring them together.
While the character development is rich, the story line is truncated by the shorter length of the novella. Jamie’s inevitable realization that he loves Sophronia feels rush and the corresponding “grand gesture” really isn’t given enough time in the novella. The last third of the book differs in pacing from the first two thirds, something that detracts from the success of the story as a whole.
However, there are many delightful elements in No Groom at the Inn. Besides the awesome title pun, Frampton provides several unique additions that add to the book. A theme throughout the novella is Sophronia’s adroitness with words, a skill that came from her father’s teaching. Sophronia and her father used to play a game called “Dictionary,” in which players attempt to offer their own definitions of unknown words. Each chapter in the novella starts with an example of “Dictionary,” with words like “otosis” and “vecordy.” The game plays an integral part in the plot and wordplay is a fun constant throughout the book.
If you’re looking for a quick holiday read or perhaps looking to grab a few moments of solitude during the craziness of Christmas, I highly recommend No Groom at the Inn. It’s a fun, quick read, meant to be enjoyed with a piping-hot mug of cocoa or a splash of egg nog, sitting in a comfortable chair, and enjoying a day in your pajamas. In other words, the perfect post-Christmas brunch treat!