When John, Viscount Welford, proposed to Caroline Fleetwood, the only daughter of the Bishop of Essex, he thought he knew exactly what he was getting—a lovely, innocent bride.
Five years later, he knows better. The woman who ran to another man on their wedding night—after they’d consummated the marriage—is hardly innocent. Years spent apart while John served as a diplomatic attaché have allowed them to save face in society, but all good pretenses must come to an end. When Caroline receives word that her father is dying, she begs John to accompany her on one last journey to see him.
But there’s an added problem—Caroline never told her father that her marriage to John was a farce. As they play-act for others, Caroline is delighted to find she never really knew her husband at all. But can she be the kind of wife he needs—and does she want to be?
Source: ARC from Carina Press via NetGalley
I’m a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. This may sound like a strange thing to say, but I have a very good reason: Caro. She’s truly awful, a spoilt brat of a girl who married one man to make another jealous and ran away on her wedding night to be with the man she loved (who, by the way, had already rejected her silly offer of elopement). Yes, she was young and foolish, but she has no excuse for her behavior five years on when she remains selfish and hot-headed, thinking the worst of her husband and not caring to know any more about him.
Normally, this kind of heroine would be enough to drive me away from finishing a book. But not this time. In part this is because of John, but I was also secretly hoping a certain someone was going to poison Caro in a fit of spiteful jealousy. Alas, that wish didn’t come true, but at least there was John.
Not that he’s perfect, mind. In fact John is stubborn and prideful and is a stickler for the rules, but he has so many very, very good reasons for the way he treats Caro – especially considering that most of his behaviour is dictated by hers. He’s also capable of real sweetness, passion and kindness, and he deserves so much more than the wife he has. Especially as Caro is a compulsive liar and even when she knows she’s in the wrong refuses to acknowledge it and simply blames John all the more.
She is infuriating, and remains so throughout the book. The only saving graces – aside from John – are all the other characters, from John’s younger brother Ronnie to Caro’s lovely father, the Bishop of Essex (… eh? Essex is a county. English dioceses are cities. I know there’s an author’s note about Essex not being a real bishop, which is fine up to a point – a made up place I can take, but a county instead of a city just annoys me). The plot itself is interesting too, about a very hasty marriage being heavily repented and the work that goes into making things right again. I just wish there had been more consequences for Caro’s constant lies and that she’d really been made to see that her behaviour throughout was just plain wrong.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy this story. However, reader mileage will definitely vary depending on how much of Caro you can stomach. If you like a more serious hero with iron integrity and a stubborn loyalty to his heart (even when his heart’s choice is questionable at best) and you’re willing to put up with a childish, less than honest heroine, who is equally stubborn when it comes to her self-interest, then give this a try. It certainly has promise and I’m intrigued enough about it to try more of what this author has to offer.
The Marriage Act is out July 27th!
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