REVIEW: Marriage or Ruin for the Heiress by Lauri Robinson
A pretend marriageA passion that’s anything but…
The great depression has left heiress Jolie Cramer’s family destitute! To save them, Jolie must abandon her dreams of independence and marry wealthy Randal Osterlund. Thank goodness Randal only wants a wife to secure a business deal and shares her feelings about love—nothing but heartache! Jolie quickly realizes that’s not all they have in common, but falling for her charismatic husband wasn’t part of their agreement…
Dear Ms. Robinson,
I’ve enjoyed some of your 1920s era books and was excited to see this new two book series set in the early 1930s during the dark days of the Great Depression. The 1930s seem to get skipped over in the rush from the heady days of the Roaring 20s to WWII and I wanted to see what you’d do with this setting.
Jolie Cramer and her family are hanging onto their old lifestyle by their fingertips. Her father’s investments almost vanished after the stock market crash and the stress of that brought on a heart attack that killed him shortly after. With her mother determined to live mourning her beloved husband and also in denial about their financial predicament, it’s up to Jolie to keep the family together and squeeze every penny hard enough to make Abe Lincoln yell. Yet she can’t do it much longer as the meager savings are almost gone. When her mother announces that Jolie needs to marry a man she’s never met or the family home will be lost to taxes and they’ll have to go live in Kansas, Jolie rebels. Losing her dream of being a designer is a crushing thought.
Randal Osterlund has been raised to bring even more wealth into the family. His immigrant grandfather achieved the American Dream and his father doubled that. Pushed to do better for his entire life, Randal’s dream is to buy a small aviation company and develop it into the biggest airline in the US. He’s seen the future of travel and this is it. But to have a chance at that, he must be a married man. Jolie Cramer looks like his best bet at getting a quiet wife who is content to manage the household, raise a family, and not expect a love match that he isn’t willing to provide. He’s seen what happens to people consumed with love and what happens when they have lost that.
Will these two agree to an arranged marriage of convenience and can they make that work?
I was expecting a standard arranged marriage book but instead got something a little more. The setting was excellent with nice touches that made it definitely take place in the early 1930s without going overboard on cramming too many things in. Jolie worries about the family name getting put in an informal list of bad check writers that merchants use. Mount Rushmore is still being carved. A city as large as Chicago only had small airfields and not enough demand from passengers for more than once or twice weekly service to some cities and only part time employees to sell these tickets. Then there’s a fun scene about a custom that sort of reminds me of a shivaree with Randal and Jolie managing to win the day.
Both MCs have sensible reasons why they aren’t looking for love in marriage and are willing to marry for financial gain. Neither is in love with anyone else but importantly to me, both agree to the marriage and try to present a united public face while also being polite to each other. Thank goodness there are no nasty scenes and both families also behave themselves – welcoming the newcomer. Yet even though she knows her husband has money enough for her not to need to watch her spending, it takes Jolie a while to get over the need to mentally calculate the cost of goods and worry about money which makes sense to me.
Where the book really earns points from me is in how Jolie and Randal begin to change their opinions of marriage and about each other. Jolie designed and made her wedding dress which horrified her mother and was mentioned in the wedding announcement in a way Jolie found dismissive. Randal admires her talent and immediately backs, both privately and publicly, her wishes to sew. Randal’s explanation of what he wants to do with the aviation company he married Jolie to be able to buy fascinates Jolie who throws herself behind his plans wholeheartedly. It might seem strange but I actually liked that Randal has a bit of period thinking in that he wants to be the main breadwinner for the family, something that he’d been brought up to believe and what would have been a common feeling for men of the era.
In fact, the two begin getting along so well together that beyond the rising sexual tension (they’d made a pact to put off any sexual intimacy until they both felt comfortable about it) that I wondered where the third act conflict would bubble up from. Then I remembered a certain character who did, indeed, become the source of division between them. The blow up was a bit silly but also, I will admit, was based on behavior that had been baked into the book all along. Thankfully this doesn’t last long and is cleared up with communication between Jolie and Randal which for the most part is something they actually do fairly well all through the book.
So I liked both main characters who act in period ways in period scenes. If there were anachronisms, they didn’t leap out at me. And yay for a business that Jolie starts based on something I don’t remember seeing in a historical book before but which makes perfect sense for that time period. The final conflict blew in and out fairly quickly but I’m happy with the development of the romance and how Jolie and Randal support each other in ways that count plus I look forward to the next book in the series. B