The New York Times bestselling author of The Viscount Needs a Wife returns with another roguishly delicious Regency romance...
As England mourns the death of Princess Charlotte, Lady Ariana Boxstall has another succession in mind. Her brother, Norris, is a strapping young man, but he’s also happily unmarried and childless. Norris agrees to take a wife on one condition: that Ariana take a husband first. Although she realizes she risks a lifetime in a loveless marriage, for the sake of her family, Ariana accepts his challenge.
When the Earl of Kynaston met Ariana eight years ago, he broke her heart. Since then, his own heart has been broken, and he’s sworn off love...until he sees Ariana all grown-up and his resolve is threatened.
Could Ariana’s bargain with Norris actually lead her to happiness? With real love on the line, she must win over the one man who refuses to be had.
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Merely a Marriage
Lady Ariana Boxstall is frightened. She's afraid that if her somewhat reckless brother doesn't marry and produce an heir soon, that he'll end up dead and she and her mother will be left in the hands of a cruel cousin. Ariana Boxstall may or may not be overreacting. Death is on everyone's minds and she wants to make sure her family is secure.
She strikes a deal with her brother that he will marry soon, but she has to marry first....and she's not really the debutante anymore. Her first season was a disaster, and she's not looking forward to going on a new husband hunt. As a taller than average woman, she does not fit into the ton's status quo.
I enjoyed Lady Ariana a lot. She was intelligent and curious, but also afraid to make waves with it by being too open. She was insecure and confident at the same time. She was a real person, with numerous faults balance by lovely personality attributes and a true caring about those close to her. This is balanced out by the Earl of Kynaston, who is not exactly what he appears at first (of course).
Their rocky "friendship" was an entertaining development that will keep you wondering when they'll both get their heads of the sand and realize they're perfect for each other. There's a good scandal (of course - but who doesn't love a good scandal) and suddenly things start to fall into place.
Merely a Marriage was a fun and quick read with some engaging side characters that just might need their own story if they don't have one already.
**I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book**
Sad that it's her last
However, I think all stray threads were taken care of.
It's hard enough now for a woman taller that 5'8", but 200 years ago, being a "long Meg" made one stand out even more, and find her chances of an acceptable marriage very slim indeed. Ariana certainly found that true at a gangly 17, but while eight years had allowed her to turn into a true beauty with more experience, she still faced the barriers of height and intelligence. Her challenge is to overcome her experiences from 17 now that she's 25.
A Peer of the Realm has a duty to carry on his line. He had a marriage that ended all too soon by the death in childbirth--and with a problem that merits a C-section these days. The Earl of Kynaston vows never to wed again, lest he kill another woman bearing his child. His challenge is to stop blaming himself, end the excessive grief, take up his responsibilities again, and live normally again.
So these two meet during what's called the Little Season, in the autumn up to mid-December. She's still in adoring awe of his godlike beauty, but objects to his drinking, being unaware, along with the reader, of his earlier tragic loss, from which grief he is trying to hide via several bottles.
They keep running into each other, disguising and denying their attraction to the other.
Kynaston's former home, where his wife died, has been sold or leased to a merchant nabob who has acquired a collection of artifacts from the near to the far East. He is somehow connected to Ariana's best friend Hermione, who suggests she visit him, given Ariana's interest in ancient civilizations, which she shared with her late father.
It is during a visit to his home that the seeds of an alleged sexual encounter are sown. The rest of the novel is chiefly concerned with Ariana and Kynaston trying to fix the situation.
Meanwhile, Ariana's brother, the Earl of Langdon has met Kynaston's young sister, who arrived unannounced in Town, staying with the family of a friend. Kynaston is extremely unhappy she's there, feeling she's much too young--at the age many girls of the ton are already Out and on the Marriage Mart. Kynaston's fears are getting in the way of his sister's future, as well.
I leave the rest, it is said, as an exercise for the reader. So go read it, already!