An assumption accompanies a reader cracking open a romance novel: fate brings our hero and heroine together; caprice, human and/or otherwise, pulls them apart … will steers them back to each other. Now Miss Bates is a strictly free-will kind of gal and, even though she hails from an indolently fate-believing culture, she likes to cling to free will as the determinant of human lives. Certainly the romance novel takes this fate into account to our, its faithful readers, satisfaction: think of all the meet-cutes you’ve read, the tumblings into a room, the snow/rain/ice storms that strand strangers, sojourners, lovers or enemies, the circumstances that bring about marriages-of-convenience, the random doors that open onto the rest of a life (Miss Bates’s favourite being the opening scene of Sarah Morgan’s The Twelve Nights of Christmas) that bring our hero and heroine together. We swallow it hook-link-and-sinker, this benevolent force ensuring that kindred spirits (think “carrots” and a boy named Gilbert) meet and mate. However, for an HEA to be complete and satisfactory, the spirits must recognize the kindred in each other and, in an act or acts of transformation and will actively seek and request of the other to join them on life’s journey.
For a bitty novella, Julia London’s The Bridesmaid serves up questions of fate and will and their role in the romance novel and does so with humour and delightful characters in an engaging plot that echoes what we love about romantic comedy. In this modest, in length not scope, novella, London writes a romance and reflects on the genre; it’s not pedantic or self-conscious, but sheer fun. Truth be told, however, there are things that may grate on some readers’ nerves/sensibilities, but Miss Bates is forgiving when a writer tickles both her funny and intellectual bones. Continue reading for Miss Bates’s further ruminations