A Marriage of Inconvenience
Carina Press, April 11, 2011 $5.99
Left orphaned and penniless as a young child, Lucy Jones learned to curb her temper, her passions, and even her sense of humor to placate the wealthy relatives who took her in. She became the perfect poor relation—meek, quiet, and self-effacing. She clings to her self-control because she can control nothing else.
James Wright-Gordon also lost his parents at a young age. But he became a wealthy viscount at fifteen and stepped into full control of his fortune and his birthright as a parliamentary power broker at twenty-one. At twenty-four, he is serenely confident in his ability to control everything in the world that matters to him. At a house party in the summer of 1809, James quickly discerns Lucy’s carefully hidden spirit and wit and does his best to draw them out. After being caught in a compromising situation, they are obliged to marry. But can two people whose need for control has always been absolute learn to put love first?
Susanna Fraser’s A Marriage of Inconvenience is an extremely rewarding romance for the reader who doesn’t need bells, whistles, and copious amounts of mental lusting and bedroom hijinks in her historical romance. Surprisingly for a story which focuses tightly on two families, and is set entirely in one locale, Gloucestershire, I found it impossible to put down.
It begins with a marriage proposal: Lucy’s cousin, cavalry lieutenant Sebastian Arrington, asks for her hand. She’s always been in love with her handsome cousin, and gladly accepts, but is mystified as to what brought the proposal about, especially when she learns she must keep it a secret until after Sebastian’s sister Portia is married to the much older and very wealthy, Marquess of Almont.
When Lucy and the Arrington family—who had taken her in as a child—arrive for the Almont nuptials, they meet the Wright-Gordons, dashing James and his vivacious sister Anna. Lucy and Sebastian become entangled with the Wright-Gordons in ways they could never imagine, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of this book is the way in which the fates and fortunes of three families are intertwined.
In its emphasis on the many features of a desirable match other than love and attraction, and on the role that family plays in these decisions, A Marriage of Inconvenience reminded me of the novels of Jane Austen.
I also enjoyed the hero and heroine very much; James is short and trim, not the kind of hulking hero many readers are used to. His appeal comes from his power and charisma. He’s blunt, forceful, and used to getting his way.
Lucy is passive, accommodating, and self-effacing. Indeed, I suspect some readers may like her a little less for these traits, but I found it refreshing to read a historical heroine who wasn’t breaking social conventions every other page.
From the first, James sees more in Lucy than she sees in herself. He doesn’t recognize his admiration as love at first, and neither does she. Their romance is more of a slow boil than an instant conflagration—even their post-marital sexual relationship has its fits and starts—but I felt this pace suited their characters and their situations (Lucy, after all thinks she is in love with Sebastian, and James, at age twenty-four, has no desire to marry) very well:
'So you wrote your uncle, and he rescued you?'
She gave a short, wry laugh. 'It wasn’t quite as simple as that. First I told the director of the workhouse that our uncle was a baronet, and he must send for him to come and get us.'
'But he did not?'
'Of course not! He laughed, then had me whipped for telling lies.'
'Good God.' James had a sudden urge to ask her which workhouse it was so he could find out if the director was the same man as a decade or so previously, and have him shamed and sacked if that was the case.
Miss Jones sighed. 'Well, I’m sure it did sound fantastical. Orphaned London urchins without a penny to their names, the niece and nephews of a baronet? Why should anyone have believed it? So I knew I would have to write him myself. But it took me six weeks. I had to make a friend of one of the cooks and persuade her to get me pen and paper and to post the letter for me once it was done. Then my uncle came for us. We were there two months, all told.'
'That was bravely done of you.' He had thought from the moment he met her that there was more to Miss Jones than met the eye, and now he was sure of it. She had shown courage and determination in rescuing herself and her brothers from a dreadful situation, and he was sure that same strength of character still lurked beneath her meek exterior.
'I had to take care of my brothers. Anyone would’ve done the same.'
'I’m not so sure about that.'
A Marriage of Inconvenience is a more traditional historical. It has
its share of sexy scenes, but is more of a character and family study. It emphasizes the fragility of Lucy’s status and the dangerous complexity of human nature, giving it an almost gothic feel at times. And how can you go wrong with a hero of less than average height who seems ten feet tall at the end?
Jessica Tripler, who lives in Maine with her family, runs the book blog Read React Review.