Book Review: Bargain Bride

Posted on: 02 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Iris Gower's Bargain Bride reviewed.

Set in Swansea around a hundred years ago, this novel tells the story of Charlotte, a young schoolteacher.  She loves her work and is determined to do all she can to help her pupils escape from the poverty of their lives, and although engaged to Luke, the headmaster, she is in no hurry to get married.

Then a dreadful accident changes the life of everyone. Charlotte finds she can only continue with her work if she agrees to marry Justin, a wealthy widower with two young daughters, one of whom is initially ambivalent in her attitude to Charlotte.

Justin tells her he wants his two daughters to have a mother, but later she finds he has another motive for asking her to marry him.  She must decide whether to accept a loveless marriage in order to achieve her ambitions.

Her decision has far-reaching effects, not only for herself and Justin, but for his daughters, Luke, and her pupils.  One of these, Johnnie, is her star pupil, but he has problems of his own.

Iris Gower was born in Swansea, so she is writing about an area she knows well, and there are plenty of descriptive passages about a once-beautiful area being blighted by industry.  The smoke and fumes from the copperworks are always present as an unhealthy background to people’s lives. 

Most people endured an existence of constant hardship, but to Charlotte it is home.  Although she had the chance to get away from the area, she chose to stay and help, but she sometimes she wonders if she made the right decision.

The characters have some depth to them and aren't just wooden stereotypes.  Charlotte is basically a good person, but she is often unsure of herself and makes mistakes.  Justin has his faults, including the way in which he deceives Charlotte, but he is not a bad man.  Luke becomes embittered when Charlotte leaves him, and his behaviour often reflects this bitterness, but he too is concerned about the welfare of his pupils.  Johnnie, for all his promise, can be very foolish.

The novel is not without its tragedies. There is an honest portrayal of what life was like for poor people in the early twentieth century.  Times were hard, and not everyone survives. The story builds to a dramatic conclusion.  In fact, I felt that almost too much happens in the last few pages.  Too many issues have to be resolved at once.  But for the main characters at least, it is a happy resolution.

Iris Gower is an accomplished author who has written over twenty best-selling novels. She still lives in Swansea, and has four grown-up children.  She knows how to tell a good story, which will hold the reader’s attention, with plenty of action and tension.

Book Review: By Margaret Hothi

You can purchase Bargain Bride by Irish Gower from all good bookshops priced £6.99.  Alternatively you can purchase it from Amazon for £5.24.

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