Monday, August 28, 2017

Mary Balogh - The Temporary Wife

Miss Charity Duncan has no illusions when she agrees to the marriage proposal of Lord Anthony Earheart. The arrogant aristocrat makes it painfully clear what he wants from her. Will Charity agree to be the wife he needs to enrage the father he hates? Of course. Will Charity then depart from his life in return for the money she and her family desperately need? Of course. Is Earheart as heartless as he is handsome and as remorseless as he is rich? Of course.
It is only when Charity enters into this mockery of a marriage that she discovers that things are not as simple as they seemed at first. For when the libertine lord takes her in his arms, it is not only their contract that threatens to be broken, but her heart as well...

Comment: The blurb of this book felt like it would be a story I'd definitely want to read so I added it to my TBR and since I managed to complete the list of books I had devised for August, I've added a few more, this one included. I guess it's a bit unfair to some titles which have been years waiting and I got this book from a used bookstore this month. But I was expectant.

In this book we have one of the tropes I like the most in historical romances, the marriage of convenience one. Lord Anthony Earheart needs a wife to confront his father, with whom he had a sort of failing out 8 years ago. Since then, he has been living on his own, he has managed to have his own money and power but he knows eventually he will become the next duke, after his father's death. Being summoned to his father's estate because the end must be near proves to be the perfect chance to have one final upper hand on his father by presenting him what would be an obvious inadequate wife in the form of previous governess miss Charity Duncan.
And for Charity, this can be the means to ensure her large family, out of sorts since their parents died, can finally find some peace and everyone will be happy, even if Charity herself only finds a contract...but is it only a cold deal?

This author has a great storytelling talent and the detail about her "voice" or "style" or whatever people find unique in her is how that aspect gives the impression that the characters all behave in a believable manner, even those who are more playful than others. There's a certain seriousness in her style I truly appreciate and makes her different from other authors.
Now that I've read more than one book by her, I can see the trend in terms of characterization and plot development, even when each story is completely different. In this book's case however, I think the page limit and a not so obvious control of her voice because this is an older title makes the book an overall good one but not as additive as some of her more recent work is.

I liked this plot and how unlikely it seemed, a future duke to marry a gentlewoman who works for a living, something that society would never accept or embrace in those times. But the allure is precisely this: that people from different status and origins can be together and can find happiness despite the differences. In this story, of course things seem to be dealt with a bit more calculation from both protagonists as they accept a mutual deal but romance is to be expected. This aspect was something I looked for and although it did deliver, it wasn't as "romantic" as I imagined. Still, it was great to see how step by step both were discovering something new about the other as they spent more time with one another and that made the see each other with new eyes.

There are certain situations that make this book feel a bit more serious than what some readers certainly hoped for when they imagined this trope. Anthony's family situation is quite serious and that is why I didn't totally warm up to him, even thinking he did redeem himself at the end. I guess there's nothing wrong with his reactions and decisions, especially if one tries to put oneself in his shoes. But then the heroine was included in his scheme and the whole situation feels cold in an "unromantic" way, meaning they were not in this adventure together, as if sharing a secret. The heroine was kept in the dark too, up to a certain point. Then we have the classical scenes where things start to change but it felt difficult to accept their relationship as something more balanced than what it looked like.

Charity is a likable heroine, she is sort of sacrificing herself and she has goodness in her heart. I would have liked the romance to reflect her too, from an early point on, even if only among themselves. I guess a mix of the relationship not being as beautiful as I hoped for along with the hero's family situation not being solved in a less bittersweet manner made me feel less amazed by the whole thing. Plus, the hero treated the heroine well but just as a commodity, not as, for instance, an accomplice or a friend and I missed that extra kindness.

As a whole, this is a good novel and it does show the author's talent and ability to keep things in a serious but still special tone. But it could have been more romantic. And I think her voice got better with time. Maybe I haven't read enough to truly compare but it feels that way. Still, the HEA was sweet (although short and there are not enough pages to work as an epilogue in Signet titles to suit me) and we can leave rested that the couple will be a team and friends together.
Grade: 6/10

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