Dec 16 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Sophia James’s Marriage Made in Money (December 16, 2014)

Sophia James
Marriage Made in Money (Penniless Lords)
Harlequin / December 16, 2014 / $6.50 print, $5.99 digital

After her first disastrous marriage, wealthy heiress Amethyst Cameron swore she'd never take a husband again. Yet her beloved father's deepest wish is for her to wed an aristocrat to protect her life and reputation. 

Lord Montcliffe must marry into money to save his debt-ridden estate, but he doesn't have to like it—or his bewitching future bride. So he's stunned by the feelings stirred up by one scorching kiss! But when Daniel uncovers the truth, can he accept the real Amethyst and help to banish the ghost of her past forever?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a noble earl in possession of a crumbling patrimony is in need of a wealthy heiress...so step right up, ladies! No worries if you’re from the made-a-fortune-in-trade side of the street because needs must when the devil drives. Apologies to Jane Austen and William Shakespeare for parodying their famous words but they very neatly sum up the premise of Sophia James’s new Penniless Lords series. 

It’s impossible to not think of Mary Balogh’s unforgettable A Christmas Promise while reading Marriage Made in Money; there are many similarities. The heroine’s father is in trade and he trades his money, apparently, to gain his daughter entrée into the aristocratic world. The penniless earl inherited rather than created his onerous debts.

But despite those similarities, there are significant differences. Amethyst is not attractive at first glance; she seems to be the quintessential dowdy spinster. But Amethyst is more than her appearance. Her interests and passions actually dovetail with Daniel’s, if only he knew. After his days in the army ended in injury, Daniel wants more than anything to raise horses on his country estate, the place where he is happiest. Amethyst is soothed, when agitated, by riding.

If she had been at Dunstan, she would have saddled up one of the horses and raced towards the far hills behind the house. Here in London the moon was high and full, tugging at her patience, stretching the limit of her city manners, making her feel housebound and edgy.

It is illuminating to see the example of the very happy marriage between Amethyst’s father and her deceased mother being referenced frequently. As her father says to Amethyst,

She said that a partner with an alert and interested mind is worth much more than one of little thought or originality. Besides, we have accrued enough money to lure even the loftiest of the lords of the ton.

Amethyst’s first marriage to the bounder Gerald Whitely was an unmitigated disaster. It is no wonder that a second marriage does not appeal to her. On the other hand, her beloved father is very sick. She wants to relieve his worries about her future. Back and forth goes her troubled mind.

Failure. It ate at certainty like a large rat at a wedding feast. Once she had chosen so unwisely she felt at a loss to ever allow herself such a mandate again. Perhaps that was a part of the reason she did not rally against her father’s arguments.

In Daniel’s past is a woman he loved deeply, who left him for an older, richer partner. She’s a widow now, looking to reconnect, after “a whole year of dark clothes and joylessness has left me numb. I want to be normal again.” But betrayal and inconstancy is not easily forgotten, even though, in the face of her tempting proposition, Daniel is only human . . . to a point.

The maleness in him rose like a sail in the wind, full of promise and direction, but he had been down this pathway once before and the wreck of memory was potent. He made himself stand still.

Reluctantly, one to save his family, his estates, and his dependents, the other to make a sick parent happy, the two become engaged. Amethyst thinks Daniel is the “most beautiful man she had even had the pleasure of looking upon” but such male splendor puts paid to the lie that there is any love between them. She doesn’t realize that he’s still recovering from grievous wounds he received in battle. Because of a dreadful carriage accident and a lingering physical recovery, Amethyst is a shadow of the vibrant woman she once was and her fiancé’s distinguished “looks would crucify her, for nobody would believe that he might have freely chosen her as his bride.” 

It’s not easy for either Amethyst or Daniel—both of them feel forced into their betrothal. Daniel even accuses Amethyst of being a martyr, much to her displeasure. 

A flash of anger came into her eyes, lighting the brown to a clear and brittle velvet. He was surprised by such a quick change. Not quite the demure woman he had imagined, after all. “I think you forget, my lord, that I am as much a martyr to my family as you are to yours.”

The surprise quotient gets bigger as Amethyst proceeds to hammer out an eighteenth century version of a pre-nuptial agreement. It’s not the twenty-first century intruding, rather Amethyst’s pragmatic and realistic view of her upcoming nuptials. She tells Daniel flatly, “You would never have chosen me without the enticement of great wealth and I accept that, but I do want civility and fairness.” Amethyst doesn’t ask for passion or intimacy but Daniel kisses her, pointing out that not every aspect of a marriage can be safely regulated.

His kiss was not gentle or tentative or kind. It was raw and masculine with an edge of anger demanding response. It was deep and unexpected, his tongue finding hers as the angle of the kiss changed, slanting on to another plane, splayed palms guiding her in, the sound of breath, the dissolution of the world around them, the focus of heat and want and need.

With such incipient passion bubbling up to the surface, with so many interests in common, it’s clear that once all the obstacles between them are cleared away, a rewarding, intimate life awaits them. What is unusual in Marriage Made in Money is the importance of friends and family to the newly created couple. Amethyst’s love for her father goes beyond duty; she fights down her fear of re-marriage to allay her father’s fear that he will die and leave his only child unprotected and alone. Daniel’s aristocratic comrades are also recovering from war, hovering on the verge of poverty, but their meager financial resources don’t impair their ability to be at their friend’s side, offering counsel and abiding friendship.

It will be a pleasure to watch Daniel’s fellow Penniless Lords find brides and solvency … and abiding loves of their own.


Learn more about or order a copy of Marriage Made in Money by Sophia James, available December 16, 2014:

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Janet Webb aka @janetnorcal has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart. When I rediscovered the world of romance, my spirit guide was All About Romance's Desert Island Keepers — I started with the “A” authors and never looked back.

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1. kahintenn
A Christmas Promise is one of my all time favorites, so this sounds good. Thanks for the preview.
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