A Bride For Lord Brasleigh

A Bride For Lord Wickton

Lord Carlton's Courtship

Lord Mumford's Minx

A Proper Marriage

The Valentine Wish

A Convenient Marriage by Debbie Raleigh
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7375-5
A Convenient Marriage is the second book in a Regency trilogy featuring a retired vicar who decides to bring happiness to three couples with troubled marriages. In this story, heiress Beatrice Chaswell overhears a conversation on her wedding day. It seems that Gabriel Baxtor, the new Earl of Faulconer, did not marry her for love; rather, he desperately needed her fortune to restore his estate. His dissolute father and older brother, now both deceased, managed to run the place into virtual ruin. Heartbroken, Beatrice accompanies Gabriel to Falcon Park and throws herself into improving the estate, while icily keeping Gabriel at armís length. Itís into this cold setting that Vicar Humbly steps, determined to set things right for the young couple he recently married.

Beatrice wants nothing to do with Gabriel. The handsome ex-soldier won her heart with his kindness and friendliness; she believed he truly loved her and was interested in her as a person. Humiliated at his deception, she avoids even eating meals with him and throws herself into her other passion - inventions.

Gabriel doesnít know what to do. Itís true he needed to wed an heiress, but he cares for Beatrice far more than she realizes. Her keen intelligence and lack of artifice attracted him immediately, and in her presence he didnít feel like an awkward and somewhat socially inept soldier. Instead, he felt like a friend and lover. Too late, Gabriel realized he should have told Beatrice the truth. Now it appears to be too late. He canít even carry on a conversation with her.

Vicar Humbly sizes up the situation and intervenes. It seems that he must get Beatrice to forgive, and get Gabriel to court his wife and show her his true feelings. Meanwhile, the vicar must also dodge the man-hungry grasp of Gabrielís widowed Aunt Sarah, who is determined to latch onto the vicar and become his new wife.

The storyline of A Convenient Marriage was enjoyable. A married couple at odds with one another isnít your usual Regency scenario, and the author uses this plot to great effect. Beatrice could have come across as petulant, but here sheís simply a deeply hurt, insecure young woman who knows sheís no beauty and canít imagine her husband ever really wanting her. Gabrielís vulnerability and own insecurity really bring his character alive. You just know once these two get past their surface resistance, theyíre going to be magnetically attracted to one another.

An opportunity was lost to turn up the heat under these two. Perhaps it was an editorial demand, but since they are already married, it would have been fun to see Gabriel and Beatrice exchange a bit more than some chaste kisses. They do eventually consummate their marriage, but itís extremely off-stage. There is little passion in their romance. Too bad - the meeting of the minds was definitely there.

Vicar Humbly does little more than give Beatrice and Gabriel both a good talking-to. Heís more plot device to get the romance rolling than anything else, but as such, he works.

A couple of points did bother me. Beatrice is wealthy, but her money came from her grandfather, who earned it in trade, and her parents are plain Mr. and Mrs. Chaswell. How would she manage three Seasons in London? Wouldnít she be considered a Cit, outside of Societyís fringes? And the authorís use of one-sentence paragraphs grew thin. The writing ended up feeling forced and choppy in places.

However, A Convenient Marriage is worth a look for its unusual storyline. Debbie Raleigh puts readers right in the middle of a troubled marriage, and then writes her way out of it nicely. Iíll be on the alert for the last book in the trilogy.

--Cathy Sova

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