Review: How to Cross a Marquess by Jane Ashford (2019)

Way to a Lord’s Heart, Book #3

Heat Factor: There’s some kissing of shoulders and some titillating undressing.

Character Chemistry: Enemies to lovers has unconvincing results.

Plot: They have to overcome their enmity…and also a crazy person at the end for good measure

Overall: My enjoyment was shaped like a Gaussian curve

Roger, Lord Chatton, the titular Marquess, is a crankypants who is intent on casting all the blame he can muster for his wife’s unfortunate death. He’s pretty whiney at the outset of this story. He turns his vitriol to Fenella Fairclough, a lady he grew up with who had befriended his wife and went out with her into the storm that ultimately caused her demise. It’s okay, he’s just feeling guilty that his marriage was terrible and he doesn’t feel worse about his wife’s death, so his immaturity is understandable. OH ALSO, Roger and Fenella’s parents had tried to force them to marry to resolve a land dispute, so he turned into a jerk and she ran away to Scotland for three years. As with all enemies to lovers stories, a promising beginning. 

As we meet our protagonists, therefore, they dance around each other when they happen to meet and avoid each other when they can. …Until they don’t. This is one thing I have a hard time with about enemies to lovers. Apparently it is just not my trope. They’ve gone months to years living as neighbors who assiduously avoid each other and then the book begins, a switch flips, and suddenly they get over that in 100 pages. What?

Anyway, Fenella gives Roger a set-down for his rude behavior and he decides he needs to take ownership of his actions and feelings. It is at this point our Gaussian curve swings up, and the middle of the story is quite pleasant. Once they acknowledge their feelings for each other, there’s plenty of room for drama and misunderstanding, but Ashford doesn’t take that path, thereby creating a feeling that their marriage will work and thrive…once they overcome that last emotional “I love you” obstacle. Right? 

NO. WTH? Our Gaussian curve begins to swing down again as an allusion made after the marriage that Fenella might not be entirely happy (because WHY? → unclear) is apparently forgotten and a completely brand new, I mean, shiny with the wrapper still on external threat is foisted on us. These two have plenty of other issues–crazy, vengeful external threats not required. 

Something about the storytelling made me feel quite remote from the characters. I believe it’s because the narrator was so often in Roger’s and Fenella’s heads that there was a lot of uncertainty teased. But there were almost no gentle allusions that lead to those stomach-fluttering convictions that are later proven to be correct. That, combined with the enemies to lovers trope, combined with not being convinced that Fenella was happy about her marriage until all of a sudden everything was fine, contributed to an overall sense of removal from or lack of investment in the plight of the protagonists. My favorite characters were the ones who presumably float through each book in this series, acting as matchmakers: Lord Macklin and his youthful companion, Tom. They were delightful.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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