Recommended Read, Review

Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn (2017)

Rokesby Series, Book 2

Review of Rokesby Series, Book 1

Heat Factor: Not a lot, but what there is sure is something

Character Chemistry: There’s nothing like crushing guilt and lies to build a relationship, but they do a mighty fine job of it

Plot: How does one get out of a moment-of-insanity fake marriage? Double down, of course!

Overall: The premise of this book is bonkers, but it’s still delightful

There’s nothing like the let’s-pretend-I-have-a-relationship-with-an-amnesiac trope to get the eyes rolling or, if it’s good, the nails bitten. Or a combination thereof. Nothing good can come of this. Instantly we have an enormous trust problem dropped smack in our lap. How on earth does this play out? At least in this book, Cecilia Harcourt’s motives begin with desperate altruism, although they continue with a guilty selfishness.

The book opens with Edward Rokesby coming awake after some time being unconscious. He hears a woman talking to a man. The man, he remembers, is his superior officer. The woman is…Mrs. Rokesby? How did he forget getting married? I’m getting ahead of myself but Cecilia tells him they had a proxy marriage. For reals. And he’s like, “That sounds strange….okay!” Because he’s a gentleman and a gentleman 1) doesn’t contradict a lady and also 2) rescues damsels in distress. Which Cecilia definitely is.

Cecilia Harcourt’s father dies, her predatory cousin comes to take her home, and she gets a letter that her brother is injured in New York. Rough. So she buries the family silver, abandons cousin Horace to his greed, and makes her way to New York. Where she discovers that her brother is missing, not injured. In her letters to her brother, she has been corresponding with Edward for years, because the men became dear friends upon joining the army. But she doesn’t know anyone in New York, and she’s having a difficult time finding anyone in a position of power who will help her find her brother. Desperate and frustrated, she learns Edward is injured and marches over to the hospital to help him, only to be told she can’t because she’s not family. And so she declares she’s his WIFE, thankyouverymuch. And pretty much single-handedly nurses him back to health. Cecilia’s kind of a badass.

Then Edward wakes up and has amnesia, so Cecilia’s lie isn’t immediately found out. And it would be really awkward to confess in front of Edward’s superior officer. And Cecilia notices that she gets much more deference as Mrs. Rokesby than as Miss Harcourt. And Edward is still incredibly weak and needs a lot of help. Really what is the downside to continuing the masquerade. HERE’S ONE: When you pretend you’re married, you have to do married people things. Share living quarters. Share a bed. Behave like you actually want to be married to your non-spouse.


HERE’S ANOTHER ONE: When you’re pretend-married to a gentleman, and you are a gentlewoman, and you live in the same quarters for days, it doesn’t really matter how he feels about you at the point of discovery because he’s honor-bound to marry you. You will never know if he actually wanted to marry you. Probably. Maybe he’d tell you. If you asked. IDK.

Well. Setting aside the sort-of mystery of what happened to Cecilia’s brother and how Edward came to be in the hospital, this story is focused on the relationship. As it should be.

Naturally Cecilia has a great deal of internal conflict considering that she’s deceiving a man she actually does care about. And also considering that he wants to consummate their marriage (married by proxy and then he’s in the hospital so that’s a thing), she has to decide if she wants to lose her virtue. More than she already has by sailing across the Atlantic alone and living with a man she’s not married to. In fairness to Cecilia, losing one’s virginity probably shouldn’t be a decision based on “well I guess we’re living together so I had better just jump in bed and get on with it!”

Edward is going through his own stuff: recovering his strength, trying to remember what happened to him, trying to figure out what exactly his relationship with his wife is. But his struggle is nowhere near Cecilia’s, so he’s just kind of delightful. Until he regains his memory, and then he’s a little petty and childish, and it nearly costs him Cecilia, so I hope he learned his lesson. He is pretty totally crushed by the revelation that she lied to him, so we do feel for him. But still, his response to Cecilia was not cool.

And then, gentle readers, the last two chapters. They. Are. Everything. I’ve read this book more than once, but as I recall, the first time I read it I thought it was fine…just fine…and then the last two chapters were like:

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