Heat Factor: This marriage is full of amazing sex.
Character Chemistry: They totally work. Like.
Plot: Merry keeps getting engaged to men and realizing she doesn’t love them! Luckily Trent isn’t worried about nonsense like that because these two are MFEO.
Overall: Eloisa James is at her best fixing marriages.
I don’t know why it took me so long to read this book, but I’m glad because it was very satisfying for me just now.
Merry Pelford is an American heiress in England on a last ditch quest to find a husband after jilting not one but two fiances back in Boston. She’s finally fallen in love with Lord Cedric Allardyce, who seems like the perfect man! Perfect!
Except then she meets his brother, the Duke of Trent, on a balcony one night and darnit, turns out Cedric wasn’t all that and she’s just as flighty as she thought she was. Because Trent is manly and confident and nice and he likes her the way she is.
But it doesn’t matter because she is not, not, NOT breaking another engagement. Now she just has to figure out how to be a perfect English lady, because being an American is definitely not working for her. And Trent realizes that even though he wants her for himself, she would be the making of his drunk, jealous younger brother. He has to step aside!
So at this point I was like, Puh-leeze. You both need to get over yourselves. It is entirely your own fault if you end up miserable for the rest of your lives. (Nevermind that that would never happen because, hello, romance novel. Whatever.)
BUT! My friends! BUT! Cedric acts like a complete wanker, Trent decides that he doesn’t care about being noble for his brother after all, and Merry realizes that it really doesn’t matter if her reputation is ruined, she is not gonna marry that a-hole. I paraphrase.
And here is where James really gets in her zone. She is never better than when she is fixing a marriage. In this case, Merry and Trent wind up married (that’s a fun thing – I won’t spoil it), but by this time they have both agreed that love is not something that would be good in their lives. Love is, obviously, extremely problematic. They’re going to have an AWESOME marriage because they’re best friends and they have amazing sex. (All. The. Time.) It’s just that…. Maybe that’s not enough. But these two, they’re a team. A pesky thing like love isn’t going to get in the way of their friendship or amazing sex life. It’s just that…. Now all the happiness has gone out of the room. What’s that all about?
Anyway, this was a fun read, and here’s why:
Trent doesn’t particularly care for Americans, but he decides after their first conversation that he wants to marry her. I love this one-sided courtship in romance because it’s not really insta-love or insta-lust, it’s recognition of a match on what is typically a deeper level than “I want to hit that.” It’s usually about the character of a person rather than about what they look like. And it’s usually the hero, and I do love me some decisive heroes. Guilty as charged. BUT THEN TRENT ACTS ALL NOBLE and I was not here for that nonsense, although I will grant that the result was a relatively unique spin on both the one-sided courtship and the stealing the fiance tropes.
Merry is making all the mistakes in Society, but she’s genuine and kind and at the end of the day, that wins. On multiple fronts, both socially and in her personal life. It’s really great when a woman gets to be herself and is appreciated for doing so.
Merry and Trent get married about halfway through the book, and this starts to look like a pretty low-stakes drama. I mean, they obviously already love each other. What’s the issue? I do not typically enjoy second chance or seducing my spouse romance, but as I mentioned above, James is good at getting her characters married for some or none of the right reasons and then getting them the rest of the way to a beautiful marriage. In this case, it seems fine that they’re building a marriage on mutual friendship, respect, and desire. But that’s not really enough, because nothing but eternal love and devotion is enough. And getting from that A to that B is what makes this such a sweet read.
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“You don’t think we’re right for each other, but we are. Trust me. My courtship will prove it.”