Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: Merely a Marriage by Jo Beverley

As one of two daughters, I am glad that we no longer have to worry about having sons to secure a family legacy. Even Britain has changed the rules of succession so that the little princess is in line for the throne ahead of her younger brother. But this change in attitude is very recent and the change in the rules of succession is even more recent. Until recently, marrying and having sons was a very big deal, both socially and politically. In Jo Beverley’s Merely a Marriage, worry about succession, spurred on by the real-life death of Princess Charlotte in childbirth, drives the plot of this Regency set historical romance.

When Princess Charlotte dies, all of England is plunged into mourning. Her death causes many people to suddenly face their own mortality and that of those they love. In Lady Ariana Boxstall’s case, it causes her to worry about the state of her own family. Her brother is as yet unmarried and shows no signs of marrying and setting up his nursery any time soon. She badgers him about shirking his duty to the family name and he retaliates by challenging her to marry first if she thinks it is so very easy. When she concedes that this may be the only way to convince Norris to do as she wishes, she sets out for London with her mother to stay with an old family friend and to find a suitable husband. It is here that she crosses paths with the handsome, single Earl of Kynaston, the man on whom she developed a crush during her come out eight years prior and who inadvertently crushed her heart. As she works her way through her list of acceptable suitors, she cannot escape Kynaston, nor he her. He has no intention of marrying because of something in his past. She must marry to force Norris to the altar. Even though they are working at cross purposes, the attraction sparks hot.

Ariana has body image issues, being far taller than is fashionable but she has mostly overcome her humiliation from eight years ago, except where Kynaston is concerned. She is also a curious and knowledgeable young woman whose honesty and cleverness will cause her to come perilously close to scandal and ruin. Kynaston has something in his past that haunts him but since it is generally common knowledge, he feels no reason to explain it to Ariana. It’s not a misunderstanding per se, rather a miscommunication. The two of them are a good pair, both smart and thinking characters who work together to uncover the person maligning Ariana purely out of maliciousness. They are as much intellectual equals as two people driven by lust or love. As usual, Beverley doesn’t disappoint, weaving an interesting plot with likeable characters, and a satisfyingly happy ending.

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