The Bartered Bridegroom

The Misfit Marquess

The Reluctant Smuggler

 
The Marriage Masquerade
by Teresa DesJardien
(Signet, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-20483-2
***
This “forced marriage” story has quite a bit going for it: a hero with human failings, an unusual glimpse into the royal court of Regency England, a nice enough heroine, to mention a few. Were it not for a major misstep at the end of the book, I might well have recommended it. All in all, The Marriage Masquerade is a quite acceptable Regency romance.

Lady Lucianne Gordon is a proverbial “pocket Venus,” petite but well endowed and lovely to look at. Her position in society is quite elevated. She is not only the daughter of an earl, but also the beloved goddaughter of Queen Charlotte. However, Lucy has made a serious misstep. She quarreled publicly with her fiancé, Mr. Jerome Holden. Clearly, the betrothal is at an end and now Lucy faces her fourth season unwed.

Lucy has retreated in embarrassment but her godmother is having none of that. The queen insists that Lucy attend a masquerade at the Queen’s House. Not only does the queen insist on her presence; she arranges to have Lucy made ‘Lady of the Masquerade,” a role that will bring her once again to the center of attention. But the queen’s machinations do not end here. She also arranges that Victor, Lord Oxenbury be chosen as “Lord of the Masquerade.”

Victor is a good friend of the queen, despite his less than elevated antecedents. He is only the third Lord Oxenbury, his grandfather having been made a viscount because of his success as a manufacturer of arms. Thus, he is not accepted by the highest sticklers and has never received a voucher to Almacks. Victor is also a good friend of Lucy’s brother and knew her as a child. However, during her come out year, the two had a falling out, the result of her thoughtless comment and his sensitivity about his appearance. Victor’s face is badly scarred, the result of an accident with a horse when he was a child. Victor is convinced that Lucy finds his appearance abhorrent while Lucy concludes that Victor must think that she is a shallow and terrible person because of what she said.

Before the masquerade is over, Lucy and Victor find themselves man and wife. This surprising development happens because of the queen’s determination to insure that her goddaughter makes a good match and Lucy’s discovery that the family’s fortune has been lost. Thus, the two must find love after marriage.

The two head off to Victor’s country estate, where they can discover exactly how compatible they are. Then, when Lucy discovers that Jerome is “courting” her younger sister, the two return to London where they discover how truly well matched they are.

Victor is clearly a “beta” rather than an “alpha” hero. He is sensitive and caring and has his own secret phobia which sets him apart from most of the men of his class. Lucy is a less unconventional character but the author clearly shows how she gradually comes to understand and appreciate the man she has been forced to marry.

The Marriage Masquerade is a fairly typical Regency romance with a somewhat atypical hero. The motivations and behavior of the characters rang quite true until the very end when something happens that simply did not make sense and seemed to be driven more by the necessities of the plot than by the characters’ personalities or by the mores of the times. Had this plot device been better handled, I might have recommended The Marriage Masquerade. As it stands, I can simply rate the book as acceptable.

--Jean Mason


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