The Bashful Bride- Release day review!

The Bashful Bride - Vanessa Riley

"Hopefully, all you see is a girl going with a boy to Gretna Green to marry and live happily ever after."
Ester's father wants to marry her off to someone of his choosing. Problem is, Ester doesn't like the man chosen. He is a far too interested in all the ladies. Her friend, Frederica, is looking for a husband by advertising for one in the paper. When they realize one of the respondents is Arthur Bex, Frederica "gives" him to Ester. Ester has crushed on and admired Arthur for 2 years. They come to an understanding and elope to Gretna Green to get married. 
Ester I both liked and didn't at times. She was immature at times and judgmental. I did like her growth throughout the book. I thought her relationships with her mom and dad were a highlight for me and showed that she didn't know everything, but made assumptions anyway. They and she finally talk and she realizes she was very unfair. And she didn't know everything. Her fear of Arthur getting hurt or killed made her controlling. I admit to be being very annoyed that it took so long for her to accept that part of him. 
It does take her until the end of the book to fully accept and conquer her fear. 
Arthur I really liked. However, he held on to his secret for too long. He had so many opportunities to come clean to Ester. So many. And didn't. I remember reading and thinking, "just tell her dammit!." Multiple times. Because, knowing his backstory, one understands why he does what he does now.
And lastly, if you couldn't tell from the cover, Ester is black (Blackamoor) and Arthur is white. I haven't read a historical romance with a woman of color as the main character. That perspective adds a whole new dynamic to the story. It takes place in 1820 and even though slave trade was outlawed in the mainland, it wasn't in the colonies. Slavery was so pervasive in the attitudes and opinions of the time. 
Ester had to always plan her outings, where to go, what to wear. She not only was female, she was female and black. Arthur, on the other hand, got judged on his profession (actor), but never his skin color or his sex. 
I loved the author's note at the end. I will be checking out her back-list. I'm interested in Theodosia's story (1st book). Frederica's story is next! 

eARC courtesy of Entangled Publishing, LLC and NetGalley
Releases today May 28, 2018

the prequel novella-A Bittersweet Moment is free in the Kindle store now.