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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Reluctant Marquess by Maggi Andersen

The Reluctant Marquess by Maggi Andersen
Publisher: Knox Robinson
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (248 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Charity Barlow wished to marry for love. The rakish Lord Robert wishes only to tuck her away in the country once an heir is produced.

A country-bred girl, Charity Barlow suddenly finds herself married to a marquess, an aloof stranger determined to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself. She and Lord Robert have been forced by circumstances to marry, and she feels sure she is not the woman he would have selected given a choice.

The Marquess of St. Malin makes it plain to her that their marriage is merely for the procreation of an heir, and once that is achieved, he intends to continue living the life he enjoyed before he met her.

While he takes up his life in London once more, Charity is left to wander the echoing corridors of St. Malin House, when she isn’t thrown into the midst of the mocking Haute Ton. Charity is not at all sure she likes her new social equals, as they live by their own rules, which seem rather shocking. She’s not at all sure she likes her new husband either, except for his striking appearance and the dark desire in his eyes when he looks at her, which sends her pulses racing.

Lord Robert is a rake and does not deserve her love, but neither does she wish to live alone. Might he be suffering from a sad past? Seeking to uncover it, Charity attempts to heal the wound to his heart, only to make things worse between them. Will he ever love her?

To be a penniless orphan looking for a way to make a living or be a marchioness is a decision Charity Barlow must make; to live with wealth and magnificent homes or perhaps be a governess in someone else’s home, living in the shadows and teaching someone else’s children.

It seems expedient to marry the new marquess. He's strikingly handsome and willing to postpone consummating their marriage until they get to know each other better and then only for siring an heir and a spare. Also, it's what her deceased godfather wanted. However, Charity believes marriage is a sacred institution, plus she always dreamed of marrying for love.

Robert, the new marquess of St. Malin, sees marriage as inconsequential and doesn’t believe in love. His proposal is upfront with Charity. He will marry her to keep his vast inheritance, but he will continue living the life he likes—mistress, gambling, racing, and London Society entertainment pastimes. He’s determined to keep his freedom but magnanimously offers her all the perks of being a marchioness.

Maggi Andersen takes the late nineteenth century mores of London Society, a self-centered young nobleman, and a countrified, intelligent, kind, ‘all-alone’ young woman and creates a captivating story of love—in a time when love and fidelity were SO out of fashion.

The petite, delicate Charity tackles the task of being a marchioness full-steam-ahead, hoping to make her husband love, trust, and respect her. She showcases all the fancy clothes and exquisite jewels he feels befit a rich marquess’ wife. She sits for a portrait that he commissions. Moreover, she copes with the gossip, flirting, and one-upsmanship that ebb and flow in the ton. Still, her husband is remote, though flawlessly courteous. He neglects her until she “made a mistake”. In a jealous rage, he berates her.

Wow, does he find out his Charity is no little country mouse. When he roars at her, she roars back at him with accusations that hit home—like, he's spoiled, pompous, self-centered, careless and unkind toward her.

Robert, stuck in an emotional time warp that goes back to his early teens and with a mindset of the privileged nobility struggles with “keeping his freedom” while learning to manage his estates vast wealth, and keeping his enticing little wife at bay emotionally.

As his metamorphosis makes him complete, he finally becomes a worthy hero to the generous heroine who berates herself for not being more appreciative of things he did for her before he realized he loved her.

While Maggi Andersen uses the usual elements found in romances set in this historical era in English, she weaves them together uniquely so The Reluctant Marquess sparkles and captivates. She captures the reader’s senses with delightful metaphors and compelling comparisons. The scents, sounds, etc. of London compared to those of Cornwell take the reader into the settings to feels the differences. This unique parallel is rather symbolic of how Charity and Robert’s relationship unfolds. While in London their relationship is polluted with all the trappings of Society, but in Cornwall it is fresh, clean, and pure; strong enough to find that happy-ever-after. Good entertainment.