THE BEGGAR BRIDE by Gillian White


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An engaging piece of English upstairs-downstairs business as a young woman weaves a tangled web of deception to help her unemployed husband and ailing baby. British writer White (Dogboy, 1996, etc.) likes a bit of satire in her novels, and here she adroitly skewers tycoons, under-class layabouts, and lineage-obsessed gentry as she tells the story of Ange Harper, the orphan who dreamed big. Ange has been brought up in foster homes, but somehow none ever kept her long; she learned about the finer things of life from one of them, but at 16 she was on her own. In love with weak but handsome Billy Harper, who's run away from home and can't seem to hold a job, Ange marries him when she finds she's pregnant. On welfare, the two are placed in a squalid residential hotel, and Ange is determined to find something better for Billy and son Jacob. Soon, the beautiful and intelligent young mother comes up with the perfect scheme: She'll hide her marriage to Billy, will marry and then--at an appropriate time--divorce a wealthy businessman. She settles on the twice-married and currently single Sir Fabian Ormerod. Using her wits and imagination, she fakes her history, steals fashionable clothes, and passes herself off as an upper-class career woman, eventually becoming the new Lady Ormerod. But the best-laid plans inevitably go wrong. Fabian's daughter by his first marriage, fearing the loss of her inheritance when Ange bears a son, plots with a charismatic satanist to get rid of her; Ange is sent disturbing, anonymous letters that vividly detail her childhood and current life; and Jacob is kidnapped. All manner of truths are eventually revealed, but Sir Fabian, it turns out, can't afford scandal, and asks Ange to continue to appear in public as his wife and the mother of his heir. A contemporary cautionary tale with bite and flair.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 295pp
Publisher: Orion--dist. by Trafalgar