Both the protagonists of this book are rather unique in their own different ways. Yes, Harriet is the well-dowered daughter of a duke… but she’s also very short and endowed with an over-abundance of curves, making her decidedly unfashionable among tall, willowy beauties. And Oliver is a tall, handsome, wealthy marquess… with a disability. A disastrous fall left him with a severe limp and unable to walk without a cane, or dance. His intended bride married another without a backward glance and, angry at the world, he pushed away those who would have helped. Including Harriet.
That was six years before the events of this story. Now Oliver’s mother is pushing him to take a wife to ensure the line of succession to his title, so he reluctantly re-enters society. And who should be the first person he notices but Harriet, still as sweet as ever… and still as alluring, with her curves he just wants to lose himself in.
Of course, he was an ass to her back then. And the problem I have with this romance is that Oliver really hasn’t learned from his mistakes. He’s still an ass. Harriet’s absolutely right when she describes him as embodying greed, out of the seven deadly sins, and accuses him of just taking what he wants without regard for others.
There is a prevalent trope, found particularly in historical romance because it lends particularly well to marriage of convenience scenarios, where the hero claims to the heroine that he doesn’t know how to love and will never love her. This usually occurs right after she has allowed him some extremely intimate liberties, showing her complete trust in him, and despite evidence to the contrary because of a loving relationship with someone else (mother or sister, usually). And frankly, it’s massively aggravating to me. It’s as though the author is trying to give her hero an air of Mr Darcy - aloof, unattainable - but has forgotten that Darcy opened himself up to rejection by professing himself passionately in love with Elizabeth Bennet before he had any notion of her true feelings.
I adored Harriet and liked the fact that Oliver had a physical disability the narrative didn’t shy away from or gloss over, but I also wished he wasn’t such an ass. I wanted more resolution of the storyline with his ex at least, and the lack of closure to the investigation of Lady X was too obviously a setup for the next book. This one ended way too abruptly, and with the presence of that annoying trope, I’m afraid I can’t give this one any more than two stars.
The Marquess And The Maiden is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.