Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29817-4
Historical Romance, 2015
Marriage Made in Money is such a weirdly honest and adorable title, it’s a shame that this title ends up being the most joyful thing about this story. Like its title would suggest, this is a tale of a marriage of practicality. Lord Daniel Wylde, the sixth Earl of Montcliffe, is broke. Robert Cameron, on the other hand, is loaded, but the timber tycoon is very ill and he wants someone to marry his daughter Amethyst and keep her safe before he croaks. He decides that Daniel is the nicest guy for Amethyst – something about how Daniel would care deeply for the horses, and no, I wish I’m joking, but I’m not – so he throws in everything from debt clearance to money for Daniel’s sister to debut in Society if the man would sacrifice his pee-pee on the altar of matrimony. Amethyst is a widow, having married a brutally abusive man before, and the last thing she wants is another husband, but you know how it is. Daddy says jump, she’d douse herself in gasoline, set herself on fire, and ask how high. And there we go, a Marriage Made in Money indeed.
Initially, I thought I had a five-oogie keeper read in my hands, because the hero and the heroine seem like real people. I can understand Amethyst’s fears and worries, and I can sympathize with her desire to keep her father happy since the man looks like he’d keel over any day now after all. Daniel initially has me scratching my head when he rants and gnashes his teeth about being forced to marry out of practicality – you’d think this is something that never happens among members of the aristocracy in Regency England, from the way he acts – but he soon turns out to be a reasonable and even kind and protective husband.
So, what’s the problem? Well, the author decides to rely on the oldest – and most tedious – trick in the book to keep the story going: Amethyst starts playing that song that she is never good enough for Daniel and she will therefore try her best to be the most miserable prune on the planet. Everyone around her reacts in kind, and the story starts to resemble a competition to determine who is the most noble idiot of them all. I started out liking this book, but by the last page, I’m completely worn down by all the melodramatic self-immolation and declarations of unworthiness.
And the author thinks that all this self-flagellation is a good thing. Amethyst’s father knows that her late husband was a complete piece of dung, but he allowed the man to marry Amethyst because the man blackmailed Robert into agreeing, and he was also aware of the subsequent beating she received… but hey, he tried to quietly do… something… without telling Amethyst because he’s so noble that way! Clearly, whatever little he did amounted to nothing, but he felt some guilt, and in stories like this, it is always better to wallow in guilt than to actually do something. Daniel actually considered Robert a noble and strong man for that man’s action… or lack of, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, Amethyst never told her father how horrible her late husband was because she didn’t want to hurt her father’s feelings but she is more than happy to keep thinking all the way to nearly the last page that she is damaged good and therefore, unworthy of Daniel’s affection or incapable of getting him to love her. On top of it all, she is certain that Daniel can’t love her because she has a birthmark that repulsed her late husband. Naturally, nobody tells anybody anything so it’s all a party of sad sacks standing there and acting depressed. And on and on and on these people would go, until I wish someone would just put these people down so that they can all find some kind of peace in this truly unhappy life of theirs.
I’m also increasingly irked by Amethyst’s willingness to give away everything in her life just to keep Daniel or her father happy. She keeps talking about how she’d be fine with nothing because she can vanish, disappear, whatever once Daniel dissolves their marriage – like she is confident that he will, because she just knows – to the point that I actually wish she’d succeed in giving away everything, so that I can laugh at her when she finds herself penniless and homeless on the streets. What is with all these pampered privileged idiots thinking that they could pull off that Fantine act well?
I guess fans of Mary Balogh’s brand of melodrama would lap this one up as a faster read that they could breeze through in between their beloved author’s books. Me, I quickly run out of patience and sympathy for the people in this story when their incessant pity party just refuses to end and they start coming up with all kinds of reasons to keep going. I go from wanting them to be happy to wanting to tie a bag weighted down with bricks around their necks and toss them into a river. I guess this is what happens when an author overdoes her characters’ pity party. This is quite unfortunate, as the first half or so of this book is so much better than the swill it eventually devolves into.