Avon Impulse, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-244637-4
Historical Romance, 2016
First off, I’m not sure whether I will recommend When a Marquess Loves a Woman as a standalone read for anyone who has not read previous books in Vivienne Lorret’s The Season’s Original series. This is because the story revolves around Maxwell Harwick, the Marquess of Thayne, and Lady Juliet Granworth, whose story arc started in previous books. Also, they interact frequently with various cast from previous books, so a new reader will have to invest considerable effort to catch up. Another reason I feel this way is because this story is more of a wrapping up of the story arc – it does not feel like a standalone story (actually, it isn’t) as much as it is a “Oh, finally, they’re getting their own story and will finally stop being brats now!” kind of thing.
And Max and Juliet are quite the brats, actually. They had a small thing, five years back, when they kissed before Juliet apparently eloped with some other guy the next day. Max has issues of constantly being overlooked by everyone (including his parents) in favor of his older stepbrother, so he now hates her. And she hates him, too, as she blames him for compromising her and then just standing there, forcing her into a marriage to an asshole. She hates him now. And in previous books, he had been doing his best to sabotage her efforts to settle into London as a widow, because he refuses to let her plague his life with her vexing presence again. She tried to stymie him by coming up with wagers to force him to concede the house that she wants but he had bought out from under her.
In this story, they are still doing the same thing, so I suppose the synopsis can be boiled down to a simple statement that this is basically the extended cut of their fun and games. Practically every trope is tossed into this one: making the guy jealous, nasty men who try to browbeat women (no, not the hero, silly, the bad guy), daddy issues, mommy issues, dead husband issues, wallflowers who are hot but are convinced that they aren’t, the naughty gossip magazine excerpt gimmick as chapter opener, the other guy, the marriage wager, sibling rivalry, compromised at a party, and so forth are all dispersed between the main couple and various secondary characters, the last group either from previous books or are clearly getting their own books soon.
I have to admit, the story is actually pretty fun to read. The author has honed her narrative style to be sharper and more concise, so her humor is especially effective here. However, it is hard to overlook the fact that the fundamental issue between Max and Juliet is basically a standard refusal-to-talk matter, and the characters behaving in childish, bratty ways only make their story feel so immature and childish. Their angst and baggage can be heavy, but it’s hard to sympathize or take their issues seriously when they often behave like silly brats fighting over the last candy in the jar.
Therefore, When a Marquess Loves a Woman is a fun, frothy read, but the characters’ antics and their baggage feel curiously mismatched and at odds with one another.