Karen Aminadra has skillfully written a Regency romance that is much more than just a romance. This is a true historical novel, one which draws you in with drama, intrigue, emotions, even some fabulously well-crafted moments of shock. Rather than being a simple narration of what happens to two young people in an arranged marriage at this period of time, we are treated to the most intimate thoughts of both Grace Haywood and Richard Emberton as they prepare for marriage and their lives together, in a style that is both well-crafted and has flair.
Which leads to the characters themselves. They are charming, witty, likeable and well fleshed-out. You become so attached to them, that when they do something hasty or wrong you are quick to scream at them for being so stupid, and flip the pages ever faster until you discover how they can repair the damage they may have done. There are a few moments in which, to me, a character feels as though they have done something they wouldn’t normally do, but these points are scarce and don’t detract from the story. There is a wonderful edge of dramatic tension in Aminadra’s novel, that starts with the fragile thoughts and desires of the two main characters at the beginning, and doesn’t leave until the (very) happy ending. But the secondary characters are not left out – rather than being mere backdrops for the protagonists to play their story out against, they are brought vividly into the book with their own thoughts, ideas and problems. This makes the novel feel even more finely crafted as sub-plots weave themselves into the main plot, both moving it along and throwing some spanners in the works along the way. I also enjoyed the way in which the main characters deal with their relationship. In a period where the upper classes often arranged marriages to suit purpose, Aminadra manages to create a relationship between two likeable but opposed characters that feels natural and real. It doesn’t feel as though anything is rushed or should have the prefix ‘insta’ before it. Instead, as you are drawn into the story, you are drawn into the complex workings of the relationships with not only Grace and Richard, but all those around them as well.
Overall, I loved this book. While I enjoy historical fiction, the Regency period is not one I’ve read a lot of, not feeling that I would enjoy it as much as others – but Karen Aminadra has changed my mind completely! I can guarantee I will be picking up the next books in this series, because I cannot rest until I know exactly how everything turns out for the next two brothers. The book is well-written, with a smooth, cohesive plot that isn’t just perfectly constructed, but has style and flair about it. The characters really drive this story, but the settings and descriptions will leave a mouth-wateringly close taste of the early nineteenth-century, as will the references to the highly-charged political matters going on at the time. The Spice Bride is a book for anyone who enjoys reading about historical periods, drama with a hint of romance and humour, and surprising characters who you will quickly grow to love. I cannot give this book less than five stars, because it’s an absolute gem.