Rule's Bride is the third book in Ms. Martin's Bride trilogy, I have not read the previous two books, Royal's Bride and Reese's Bride. When the book opens, Rule is employed in a weapons factory in Boston, and his boss calls him into his office and offers him a deal that could change his life. His boss, Howard Griffin, is dying, and he's concerned for the welfare of his 16-year-old daughter, Violet. Howard wants Rule to marry Violet, in name only until she turns 18, at which time he can exercise his husbandly rights. At that time he will also become half owner of Griffin Manufacturing, the company Violet will inherit at her father's death. Rule is hesitant at first but ends up accepting the arrangement.
Fast forward three years, and Rule is a year late coming to claim Violet. He's living back in England, got a well-earned reputation as something of a lady's man, and no one, not even his family, has any inkling that he's married. When Violet shows up on his doorstep he is shocked - not only did he not expect to see her, but he's noticing that she went from a gawky tomboy at age 16 to a knockout at age 19 and he likes what he sees. The problem is, Violet is in love with someone back in Boston, Jeffrey, and she's come to England to ask Rule for an annullment so she can marry Jeffrey. He doesn't want to disolve their marriage, he thinks she's beautiful and he wants her to stay. He convinces her to stay for one month, but she makes it clear she'll not be bedding him.
Things are moving along slowly, when Rule takes Violet to the theatre and a fire erupts. They barely escape with their lives and in the rush of adrenaline and thankfulness to be alive they consumate their marriage. Violet is devastated, she'll have to get a divorce now instead of an annullment, and she's not even sure Jeffrey will still want her after this. Little does she know Jeffrey has a secret: he's in cahoots with a gentleman who wants to buy Violet's company - and use it to arm the Southern States before war in the United States breaks out. Jeffrey knows Violet is anti-slavery but thinks he can change her mind after they're married. When Jeffrey arrives and Violet tells him she's consumated her marriage to Rule, he is disappointed but doesn't give up.
As Rule and Violet are trying to sell their company, there are a few buyers, but Violet makes it clear whomever buys the company may not use it to arm the Southern States. Then one of the buyers is killed and Rule is caught on the scene and thrown in jail. While trying to find the real killer, she discovers children working in horrible conditions and endeavors to save them while also trying to free her husband.
This book really didn't do it for me. The romance was flat and I found it difficult to work up any feelings for Violet or Rule. I was not impressed by the fact that Rule was supposed to go back for Violet after two years but by the time she came to him he was already year late. Then he decides he wants her? His reputation didn't bode well as far as a lasting relationship; he sounds like a serial seducer - he sticks with one lover for awhile and then moves on to the next when he's done. No wonder Violet was paranoid he'd eventually leave her.
I also thought the love triangle was weak - Jeffrey was such a wet noodle. He seemed to be such a pushover and he claimed he loved Violet while working with another man against her to get control of her company.
I did like the angle about the Southern states trying to buy the armament to outfit the Southern States with weapons on the eve of the Civil War, and the lengths some men would go to in order to preserve their way of life. As a whole, though, I found this book could not keep my interest and I give it 2 out of 5 stars.Disclaimer: I received this book from NetGalley free of charge in exchange for an honest review.