REVIEW: His Convenient Marchioness by Elizabeth Rolls
Dear Ms. Rolls,
Not long ago, I saw that Kelly (Instalove) had read and recommended your new Harlequin Historical, His Convenient Marchioness. I wasn’t familiar with your writing but Kelly mentioned that she enjoyed the book and that it had a fifty-year-old hero, and between those two factors, I decided to try a sample. When the sample ended, I liked what I had read enough to purchase the book.
Giles, Marquess of Hunterscombe is widowed, having tragically lost his wife and all three of his children to a smallpox outbreak eleven years ago. More recently, a year ago, his only remaining heir, Gerald, a young half-brother, died, and now Hunt’s sister, Lettie, insists that he must remarry and produce an heir for the title.
At fifty years of age, Hunt doesn’t want a young bride; he’s put off by the idea of a three-decade age difference. If he must beget an heir, he would rather marry a widow, though obviously she has to be in her childbearing years. A widow, he reasons, will not require as much of his attention, when, due to the heartbreak of his late wife and children’s losses, he has nothing left to give.
At Hatchard’s bookshop, Hunt encounters Emma, a thirty-two year old widow with two children, ten-year-old Harry and six-year-old Georgie. Hunt is impressed with the way Emma handles her son and daughter and it soon becomes evident that she is a lady, despite her somewhat shabby clothes. Once her children meet his dog, Fergus, who is waiting outside the shop, a tentative friendship between the two adults begins.
Emma scandalously married against her parents’ wishes, though her husband, Peter, was the younger son of a duke and her own father is an earl. She and her late husband loved each other very much, despite an enmity between their fathers, and while they became outcast from society for choosing one another, they did not regret their choice.
But now Peter is dead and Emma’s reputation is in tatters, so at first she assumes that Hunt’s intentions are dishonorable. He quickly corrects that misapprehension, but even after he approaches her with his proposal of a marriage of convenience, she feels that due to her damaged reputation, it would not be right to accept.
Things change quickly when Peter’s father threatens to take Emma’s children from her, and Hunt offers his help and support. Emma and Hunt are soon married, but there are many issues left for them to work out.
Can Hunt entrust his heart into Emma’s care, when it has not entirely healed from the losses he has suffered? Can Emma be the kind of undemanding wife Hunt needs, even though she finds him immeasurably attractive, as well as kind? And who is the stalker who has been trailing Emma and her children? What is it he wants?
This was a book with appealing characters, and it reminded me a bit of Carla Kelly’s traditional regency, Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand. Like the eponymous Mrs. Drew, Emma played the hand that was given her, and won more than she expected in Hunt’s presence in her life.
As much as I liked the idea of a fifty-year-old hero, I wished that Hunt had been less anxious about his age relative to Emma’s. His worries that he could come across as a randy old goat just made me visualize him as a couple decades above his age.
Still, Hunt had many attractive qualities, such as his attachment to his dog, Fergus, whom he allows to sleep on the bed, his quickness to step into a supportive, avuncular role with Harry and Georgie, and his kindness to Emma. Though he tries to guard his heart because he feels it is broken, Hunt can’t help but come to love her and her children.
Emma was equally honorable and gentle, conscious of all Hunt had done for her and for the kids. She tries to be the convenient wife he asks for, but can’t keep herself from loving Hunt and wanting his love in return. She is also a good mother to her children, without ever crossing into annoyingly perfect terrain.
I also loved that Harry and Georgie come across as imperfect children; polite and well brought up for the most part, but with moments of fears, confusion, and misbehavior. Fergus, the dog, is also appealing, as are some secondary characters who are clearly prequel and sequel protagonists.
The book is kept from being oversweet by the presence of Emma’s unpleasant relatives, Hunt’s snobbish sisters, and the villain who is stalking Emma and her children for unknown reasons.
Besides the overarching conflicts—Hunt’s desire for a businesslike marriage arrangement that won’t put his battered heart through any more pain, and the mystery of Emma’s stalker—there are a number of smaller conflicts that are resolved quickly, so the plot moves at a good clip, and perhaps even a bit fast. I got to where I was expecting each new conflict to dominate per couple-few chapters, when I would have preferred a less clockwork-like rhythm to the way new conflicts cropped up and got resolved.
In the last third of the novel, events moved into high gear and the resolution made for emotional reading, though I would have liked to linger on Emma and Hunt’s happiness without quite as much emphasis on another couple, whose book, I’m guessing, must be in the works.
His Convenient Marchioness was an enjoyable way to pass the time and a quick read with sympathetic, honorable characters. B.