The Marriage Game, Book 10
Heat Factor: They’re pretty proper. They do jump in the sack after they’re engaged.
Character Chemistry: The holding each other at a distance while also becoming more intimate was kinda sorta cute.
Plot: “Please rescue me, my love. My life is a hot mess.”
Overall: If you like high drama, this isn’t for you. If you like low key stress, this is probably a good fit.
I do not know what to make of this book. Perhaps you, readers, can help me. On the one hand we are dealing with a story that includes adults whose stressors are normal adult stressors, which is a refreshing change from all the angst and drama of so many romance novels. On the other hand, there were several occurrences that made me think, “Why is this even a thing?”
Alexander has just unexpectedly inherited the Marquisate of Exeter from his father. He was traveling on the continent when it happened, so he’s arrived home to find his household a complete shambles. His father never trained him to manage the estate (which naturally comes with several properties). His mother eloped with the steward. And his young sisters have been left alone in his house, chaperoned only by their highly unsuitable governess. Fortunately their neighbor, Lady Dorie, has been keeping an eye on things, but it’s a mess.
Lady Dorie is a managing female who honestly has a hard time minding her own business. Fortunately Exeter appreciates that, but holy moly this woman needs to learn some boundaries. She stepped in where she was truly much needed, and now that the Marquis is home she’s ready to step back. Sorta. It’s just that Exeter is at a loss as to what to do, and he’d be perfectly willing to let Dorie continue managing his life as his wife. Because nothing but a love match will do for her, Dorie determines that she must find Exeter a wife who will meet all of his needs so she can continue her search for a love match. You see? Meddling.
Peppered throughout are little conflicts that must be addressed:
- Through no fault of their own, Exeter’s sisters reputations are being dragged through the mud. (Thanks, Mom.)
- The irresponsible mother who carelessly damaged her daughters’ reputations wants them to live with her and her new husband, going so far as to try to kidnap them.
- The unsuitable governess is having an affair and because she is a forward-thinking vegetarian feminist, she also refuses to get married.
- Exeter’s father’s Tory friends won’t sponsor him in Parliament because they think he should leave town for a year (fortunately he’s a Whig like Dorie’s father).
I wondered why there was so much denouement, and the reason is Quinn did a pretty solid job of tying up all her loose ends.
Unlike (I would argue) most Regency romance novels, which focus on propriety primarily so the protagonists can proceed with utmost impropriety, our protagonists in this book are paragons. From a pragmatic standpoint, I appreciate this aspect of the book, but it also means that non-conformist behavior is scorned. Examples:
- Exeter’s mom falling in love and marrying the man she loves is basically the end of the world.
- The unsuitable governess is sacked after she engages in an extramarital affair.
If outlandish drama that doesn’t always make sense in a historical context (or, let’s be honest, in any context…we’re fantasizing here after all) is not your favorite, Ella Quinn is a good bet. It also means that the drama that drives the plot is based on the sort of bad assumptions and misunderstandings that occur in real life. For example:
- Exeter is a bit out of sorts when he comes home, and his willingness to allow Dorie to keep managing his life leads Dorie to assume that Exeter knows less than he does. He’s an adult who has friends from when he went to school. He knows how to go on in society. His father just never taught him to manage his estates and he hadn’t planned to be a stand-in father to his sisters. And yet Dorie is shocked when he doesn’t need her help in some social situations.
- Given where he is in his life Exeter is advised by several friends to marry. As a product of aristocratic society (and of his parents), love doesn’t need to be part of the equation, but when he fixes his interest on Dorie, he loses interest in every other woman. For her part, Dorie demands a love match and nothing else, so she keeps trying to fix up Exeter with other women.
- Dorie demands a love match but she has no idea what she’s looking for because she’s decided that a man with whom she has nothing in common and for whom she has no strong feelings is apparently the man for her. Meanwhile, she can talk politics, estate management, etc. with Exeter but she refuses to consider that she could love him because she’s already decided he doesn’t love her.
Anyway, for some low key Regency romance, start here. You’ll find strong heroines, but know that they don’t fit the mold of the popular historical heroines who throw convention out the window with impunity. Given that those heroines are totally annoying, I’d recommend a cozy sit-down with Ella Quinn any day.
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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