Wednesday, April 17, 2024

TBR Challenge: Sara Ramsey - The Marquess Who Loved Me

The widowed Marchioness of Folkestone is notorious for her parties, her art collection, and her utter disregard for the rules. But Ellie Claiborne knows her destruction is near. The new marquess is her first lover–the man whose sculpted body and sardonic grin haunt her every time she picks up her paintbrush. If he ever returns to claim his inheritance, her heart won’t survive seeing him again.
Nicholas Claiborne hasn’t stepped foot in England since watching Ellie marry his cousin. He has no use for the gorgeous, heartless girl who betrayed him, or the title she abandoned him for. But when his business in India turns deadly, Nick must return to London to uncover a murderer–and take revenge on the woman he couldn’t force himself to forget.
Nick hates Ellie’s transformation from sweet debutante to jaded seductress. Ellie despises him for leaving her behind. Still, the sparks between them reignite the passion that should have been their destiny. As their demands of each other turn darker and a potential killer closes in, they must decide whether to guard the fragile remnants of their hearts—or find a way to fall in love all over again.

Comment: One more month gone and it's now time for a new TBR challenge post! For April the theme is "no place like home" and in my mind I imagined someone returning home after being away for a long time, for that feeling of cherishing home is certainly stronger in that situation. It just happened that I had already planned to read this book this month, about a man who left his country and is now back to take charge of his estate, thus my choice was easy this month. 

This is actually the third installment in the Muses of Mayfair series, about four friends who have uncommon hobbies/passions considering the historical setting. 
Elinor, a widowed marchioness and painter, is going on about her life as usual, when Nicholas Claiborne decides to return and take over his estate. In the past Nick and Ellie had been sweethearts in love but when her father was told about this, he found a titled husband for her instead of Nick, who was a merchant's son at the time. Coincidentally, Ellie's new husband was Charles, the marquess of Folkstone, who happened to be Nick's cousin, and he could not accept the betrayal, leaving for India. Now Nick is back after several years, is the current heir of the estate where Ellie has lived and he wants revenge. However, despite the years, could it be that there is still love between them, and a place at home for Nick?

I will say that most of this book proved me right, once again, on why I tend to not enjoy the lovers reunited trope that much.
Ellie and Nick had been in love, a sweet, puppy kind of love which they believed could last forever and they were even intimate. Then, events happened to prevent them from being together and Nick could not believe she would marry his cousin instead, thinking she had done it only for the title, whereas he and his family were linked to trade and he could not give her the same. That is why he left and why he became successful. Now he is back and wants to get revenge on Ellie, but as they start interacting once more, they both realize the teenage feelings aren't gone.

I find these lovers reunited stories very boring in general, because there are pages and pages or scenes popping up all the time about past memories, about reminiscence, about past events/situations which cannot be changed and that, nevertheless, affect the characters and their choices in the present. I was, I admit, rather annoyed at Nick and Ellie for how they behaved in the past, but even more so for how they are now and the type of actions/behavior they have. This meant that while the story had its appeal, and I was curious to see them interacting with the secondary characters, their actual romance and reunion was boring as everything.

Certainly that this is a personal interpretation of the story line, and the reunion the actual purpose of the plot, but I struggled to find interest in what they were saying and doing. Most times I was annoyed because a frank conversation both in the past and now would make things easier - if not solving the conflict right away - but when this does happen to minimize the problems between them as I predicted, many chapters of silly games had already happened, increasing my general displeasure about them as a couple.

In the past, Ellie accepted to marry Nick's cousin because it was what her father wanted. However, I could not sympathize because in the now, the father is no longer in the picture and Ellie is sometimes acting as a jaded widow, and I just could not empathize with her. I think we are supposed to see her as becoming colder or cynical because of her past experiences, but I think I'd have liked her more if her choice in the past had been for a greater/stronger reason. Pleasing a father in an historical context might have more importance than in a contemporary one somehow, but I don't think the author wrote things in the best way to make the reader (well, me) convinced that those reasons had been the only possible ones.

Perhaps I can add that, in general, the writing of this story was not very.... satisfying. Perhaps, in part, it's the trope's fault, always something I'm already beware of, but the characterization of Ellie and Nick in the now just did not made me root for them. I knew the end would be that they would become an established couple again, but the process was not a romantic nor sweet one enough for me to think of them as a successful one. 

Nick, as well as Ellie, is now a more experienced person in relationships with others and this did affect his behavior into something less understanding. But I could put this aside if his goal was to win Ellie back or to find a way to finally get answers, but his silly games of revenge and how the author invented a way for them to need to be together while they didn't want to nor needed to, was really frustrating. Silly sexual revenge games did not make me think of them as a romantic couple, and when, supposedly, their feelings are romantic and happy again, I was no longer interested in them.

There are some references to Ellie's painting and why it was important to her, but not as much as the passions of the other female protagonists had been highlighted for plot purposes. I did like the interaction between the protagonists and the secondary characters, but when the author adds an apparent villain who is trying to kill Nick, so that the plot has to move towards romantic bliss more obviously, I thought this was a rather weak method of doing it. 
I think the "no place like home" notion that prompted my choice was well achieved, for Nick does return from India and he does reminisce about his home and his younger years, and the story ends with an HEA for him and Ellie in his current role, and estate.

Still, in general, this wasn't as special as I imagined it could be despite my usual reservations for this trope... I hope the final story of the quartet is more to my taste, at least the idea of it seems to be and I hope I won't be disappointed.
Grade: 5/10


  1. It's always interesting to me how we readers bring our own baggage into the reading experience. For example, I can't read the "second chance" trope when it's a contemporary story about a divorced couple--my personal experience makes it so I can't suspend my disbelief at all.

    On the other hand, the same trope tends to work for me when it's setup like in this book: they were in love while very young, separated by circumstances (class, parental decree, etc), and reunited as adults. In those cases, I don't mind the reminiscing, as the past informs the present for everyone, and when it's well done, it highlights character growth.

    But I can see how, if the trope is already something one doens't like, any and all passages with past history are salt on the wound, as it were.

    1. Unless someone is incredible proficient in meditation, like a monk in Tibet or something, it's highly unlikely to NOT allow what we've seen or did or saw or heard impact the new experience in front of us...
      I suppose that, for me, the true wonder of a book is that, sometimes, this trope does work and the never ending search is what makes reading fun as well :D

  2. I feel like I have read so many books that have this one's problem, a lame excuse for keeping them apart. It just doesn't work if the whole time I'm thinking, Just talk!

    1. I think that if the rest of the story had been more appealing to me, perhaps that detail would not have been as glaring as it was. :)