If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know I’ve been enjoying the Riverbend Romance Novella series. My main contention has been to wish for a longer story so I could spend more time with the characters.
In Team Bride, once again, Valerie Comer’s skill at making characters I can connect with shines through. Corbin is both fun and deep at the same time while Sarah does right by her friends even when it means facing her childhood traumas. The novella has a funny, lighthearted tone through much of it, but there are definite dark moments as well.
The story has many layers and a nice complexity that isn’t revealed until later, but there’s enough seeded to make me aware of what was coming. I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers, beyond that it’s a kicker, and thanks to the seeding, I had the horror movie sense of what was coming that really cranked up the tension.
Some of the complexity comes from reading the other novellas like Secretly Yours. You don’t meet Sarah in that one, but Nick and Lindsey’s history is definitely tied into hers while Sarah plays a critical, if background, role in Pinky Promise, making Team Bride much more linked with the previous novellas than any the others.
The complexity isn’t only in the community though. Sarah is a beloved preschool teacher, but she doesn’t have her act together, especially when the topic turns to weddings. This makes it that much harder when her best friend tags her for maid of honor, but she’s determined to do her best.
Corbin is much more than the fun-loving guy everyone sees, but at the same time, he enjoys seeing the lighter side in pretty much everything. He’s nervous, with good reason, about how Sarah will see him, and worried about the impact of meeting his rambunctious family when she’s so self-contained, but he doesn’t let any of that stop him.
There’s much to enjoy, especially in Corbin, but this is my least favorite of the series so far. First of all, Corbin does most of the work in the relationship. While he’s adorable and there are good reasons for this, it makes for less balance in the romance to my mind. Which brings me to the second reason: This is the first time in the series that the inspirational aspects clashed with the story for me. The focus was attaining perfect love with God, which is fine, but the way it all came about, it felt as though Sarah was accepting the reality that Corbin would fail her (like all men fail in her mind) because only God’s love could be perfect. I’m not saying this well, and her need for faith in herself and God’s love is clear and makes sense. It’s only how that character development crosses over into the romance that bothered me.
Ultimately, I like how the story talks about facing your fears and not letting them keep you from trying. This is an important message, especially when Sarah’s issues had solid foundations. The character growth on Sarah’s part is strong, and as I said, I loved the balance between charismatic and lack of confidence in Corbin’s approach to life. Despite being handsome, easy to get along with, and dynamic, Corbin never comes across as arrogant or self-confident to the point of assumption.
If you’re a romance reader first and inspy second, you might have some issues with this novella. If you’re inspy first, it may just hit the perfect note. However, despite the issues, there’s much to enjoy, and I do not regret meeting Corbin.