Confessions from an Arranged Marriage (Burgundy Club, Book 4)
Avon/March 27, 2012/$7.99 pb, $4.99 digital
In London after a two-year exile, Lord Blakeney plans to cut a swathe through the bedchambers of the demimonde. Marriage is not on his agenda, especially to an annoying chit like Minerva Montrose, with her superior attitude and a tendency to get into trouble. And certainly the last man Minerva wants is Blake, a careless wastrel without a thought in his handsome head.
The heat and noise of her debutante ball give Minerva a migraine. Surely a moment’s rest could do no harm ... until Blake mistakes her for another lady, leaving Minerva’s guests to catch them in a very compromising position. To her horror, the scandal will force them to do the unthinkable: marry. Their mutual loathing blazes into unexpected passion but Blake remains distant, desperate to hide a shameful secret. Minerva’s never been a woman to take things lying down, and she’ll let nothing stop her from winning his trust ... and his heart.
I view the opposites-attract trope in romance fiction with trepidation. While I appreciate that the conflict in such stories will be strong and organic, too often the book leaves me doubting whether reconciliation between such different people is possible and concluding that once the fires of desire burn low the H/H will lead separate lives.
My concern was magnified in the case of Miranda Neville’s Confessions from an Arranged Marriage because Minerva Montrose’s intelligence, humor, youthful confidence, and undisguised ambition to be a political hostess made her a particularly appealing secondary character in The Dangerous Viscount and The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton, and the last person I expected to see her paired with was the insufferably superior Marquis of Blakeney. The opinion Sebastian Iverley (The Dangerous Viscount) expressed of Blake, his cousin and enemy, was one that seemed accurate to me:
“He was an arrogant ass at the age of ten, with very little reason I may say, and he never got any better. He’s an idiot without a worthwhile thought in his head.”
The first chapter of Confessions from an Arranged Marriage is a classic example of opposites clashing before attracting. This exchange is typical:
“I suppose you seek to embarrass me by mentioning your mistress,” she said.
“No,” he said. “Just to remind you that I have better things to do than cater to the consequence of an ambitious miss.”
“Then we find ourselves in perfect accord,” she retorted. “I have better objects of my attention than a spoiled wastrel without a thought in head except for sports.” She favored him with a sweet and utterly insincere smile.
It’s clear that Blake will be Minerva’s hero. Frankly, had I not been reading an eARC for review, I would have marked the book as DNF. No one could have convinced me that I’d end up loving this hero and believing in the HEA. Only reading the book could do that.
When mistaken identity and a trick gone awry lead to Blake’s being forced to propose marriage and Minerva’s being forced to accept his proposal, both are bitterly disappointed that the life now confronting them is very different from the one they had expected. Blake thinks longingly of his mistress.
Instead of Desiree’s endless skill and creativity, he was sentenced to a lifetime of sleeping with a sharp-tongued little snip of a girl with no idea of how to please a man in bed, and doubtless little interest in learning.
Minerva realizes that her ambition must be sacrificed for her reputation.
She faced an existence utterly different than she’d planned since she’d first become enthralled by politics at the age of eight. . . . Ever since, she’s burned to make her mark on the world. Instead of a worthwhile life supporting her husband in the betterment of their country, was she to wed a dissolute idiot with whom she had nothing in common?
It was the “nothing in common” that bothered me. I had no doubt that Neville could make me believe in the passion that I knew would flare between the ill-matched twosome, but how could I ever believe that these Minerva and Blakeney could become friends and companions as well as lovers? I questioned whether they could even have a conversation without sniping at one another. Even when more of Blake’s history is revealed and I viewed him more sympathetically, I still didn’t believe he and Minerva belonged together. I cringed when she responds to his accusation that she is pompous in a burst of anger that shows her valuation of him.
“Better pompous than irresponsible. You were born to a position where you could do some good in the world, and as far as I can see you’ve done nothing to prepare for it. You don’t read the newspapers or study the issues of the day. You don’t even try! You may be handsome and you may know all about horses but I made a huge mistake in thinking you might be worth more than that.”
Since this outburst is followed by a physical separation and an emotional separation that continues even after they are together, I saw little to change my mind about their future. Blake could not become the man Minerva had dreamed of marrying. But as Minerva’s perception of her husband changes, so does the reader’s. First, she begins to value what he does well. She watches him fence and appreciates the skill, strength, and stamina that he displays.
Minerva hung over the railing in shameless admiration. In years past she’d seen Blake compete in a horse race and knew him to be a rider of unparalleled skill. She wouldn’t mind seeing him box too. It was always a pleasure to watch an expert at work, no matter what the avocation.
Minerva’s deepening respect for the man Blake is empowers him to become more, and he is able when she needs him most to be commanding and powerful, every inch the duke with generations of dukes behind him. Perhaps the greatest evidence of the changes in Blake is his acceptance of what he is and what he is not, a self-acceptance tempered by his regret that he cannot be the man Minerva wants. And Minerva’s response to his self-acceptance is a lovely reminder that these two have grown into two people who like and respect one another as well as healthily lusting after one another.
“I’m not going to lead the party and I’ll never be a member of the government, let alone Prime Minister. I wish I could be the man you want, Minnie, but I don’t have it in me.”
“You are the man I want. You don’t have to be anyone different.”
Sigh! I’m a believer. Happily ever after all the way.
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.