The Perfect Husband by Jeanne Savery
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN: 0-8217-7064-0
I’m not sure why I picked up this book at my local bookstore. Perhaps my reason had to do with the fact that I have frequently enjoyed Savery’s Regencies in the past. Perhaps it was the title: every woman dreams of finding “the perfect husband.” Perhaps it was the promise of a “forced marriage” story; this plot is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I came to regret my impulsive purchase. The Perfect Husband proved to be a far from perfect story.

Perhaps the first clue that all was not well with the story can be found on the back blurb where we are informed that the heroine, Lady Lillian Temple, facing financial ruin thanks to her father’s unfortunate investments, decides to find herself a husband fast by sneaking into the bed of one of her fellow guests at a house party. She has determined that Lord Melwin would make the perfect groom but his lordship is called to London and his friend, Lord Anthony Wendover, takes over his room. Thus, Libby finds herself in the wrong man’s bed. However, Tony is a man of honor, so he agrees to marry Libby.

Why, I ask myself. Why would a seemingly intelligent young lady embark on such a reckless ploy? Frankly, the reasons give never seemed nearly adequate enough. And how can the reader respect such a heroine? Why would the hero who has always dreamed of marrying for love accept such a deceptive ploy? A pleasant afternoon spent in the heroine’s company and a pair of striking eyes do not seem to be an adequate motivation for an act which could ruin one’s life.

And why would Lord Tony’s friends acquiesce so quickly to what would seem to be a selfish and self-seeking act? Why would Tony’s parents accept Libby into the bosom of the family? Why, why, why?

Obviously, the romance centers on Libby’s discovery that Tony is indeed her perfect husband while Tony finds that his bride has all sorts of good qualities and characteristics that allow him to achieve his dream of a marriage based on love. It takes him a while to get over his anger at Libby’s behavior. This does not surprise me. Granted, Libby suffers the anguish of remorse over her act, as well she should. But while the author tells us quite frequently of Libby’s sterling qualities, she never is quite redeemed in my eyes for her action. Thus, I fear, the love story never really worked for me.

There are other problems with The Perfect Husband. This is obviously the fourth book in a series about six friends. Unfortunately, I have not read the first three stories. Now, I enjoy a series of related books as much as anyone and I do not share the determination of some of my fellow readers to peruse the books in order. I have read several books in such series out of order with much enjoyment. In each case, the author made very sure that the books could stand alone

Such was not the case with The Perfect Husband. I very much felt that I was entering in media res. A significant part of the book dealt with issues which had clearly arisen in earlier stories and which were brought to their conclusion in this installment. The attempts to provide the requisite backstory simply did not work and these episodes added not a bit to the story at hand. I was distracted rather than entertained.

I realize what the author was trying to do with the conflict in The Perfect Husband; she was trying to set up a situation where the heroine’s own actions forced the marriage and where the hero had to get beyond his own understandable anger to come to realize that the heroine was worthy of love after all. But, for this reader at least, the premise didn’t work.

Perhaps those who have been following the adventures of “the Six” and the matchmaking tiger Sahib will enjoy this book more than I did. But for all other readers I must warn, “think twice” before reaching for The Perfect Husband. I wish I had.

--Jean Mason

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