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Tag Archives: Forced Marriage

Review: The Gilded Web – Mary Balogh

Gilded Web

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Expected Release Date: November 28, 2006
Publisher: Bantam
Imprint: Dell
Author’s Website: www.marybalogh.com
My Source for This Book: Local Library
Part of a Series: Book 1, Web Series
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Overly Stubborn Heroine
Favorite Tropes: Marriage to Avoid Scandal, (Emotionally) Abused Heroine

Official Blurb:

From one of America’s most beloved storytellers comes a classic love story—the breathtaking tale of a man and a woman caught in a web of temptation and seduction.

All she wanted was to escape the hot, crowded London ballroom. But moments after stepping into the bitterly cold night, she is seized by a pair of strong hands and spirited away. Fully expecting to be ravished, sheltered Alexandra Purnell instead finds herself at the mercy of the man who saved her from certain scandal. Edmund, Earl of Amberley, is bold and sensual, tempting Alexandra to be reckless for the first time in her life. But as passion ignites, Edmund’s offer of marriage takes Alexandra completely by surprise. Now a woman who craves her freedom above all else is about to discover how far one man will go to protect and possess the woman he loves.…

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved James, and I’m dying to know just what happened to him that caused him to become so bitter and cynical and cold. 
  • I also enjoyed the “abuse” factor — Alex wasn’t beaten (well, the argument could be made that she was up to the age of 16, but still) or sexually assaulted, but instead her father was overly pious and her life had been very painful emotionally.
  • love stories where the heroine is forced to marry to avoid scandal for something of which she is entirely blameless. I enjoy when unjust situations end in a happily ever after for those involved.
  • I did enjoy when Alex finally stood up to her father as an adult, rather than meekly taking his word as the Gospel and meekly submitting to his harsh punishments.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I never thought this book would end.  Granted, I read it on Kindle, so I had no idea what the actual page count was while I was reading it, but it simply dragged to the point that I almost put it down, but I had already passed a certain percentage and didn’t want to have wasted my time.
  • I found myself far more interested in the siblings of the protagonists than I did in their own relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good “secondary” romance, but I had to stop myself from skimming on several occasions when the attention turned back to Edmund and Alex.
  • A minor point, when one considers just how much else I disliked about this book, but I don’t care for the “hero” of a story to have sex with other women after it becomes apparent he will have to marry the heroine.  In this particular case, it wasn’t that big of a deal, because he’d not yet become betrothed to her, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
  • On a similar note, there was far too much time spent on the side characters, from Edmund’s siblings to everyone’s parents to people who lived in the village.
  • This book was depressing. I didn’t realize going into it that all that time and effort that was being put into the secondary romances was merely setup for future books in the series, but only Alex and Edmund got a “happy” ending, which means that there are a whole heck of a lot of miserable people at the end of this book.
  • Alex was ridiculous. I could, to a point, understand her bitterness at being forced into marriage, but she acted like a spoiled child, ready to cut off her nose to spite her face. I wanted to slap her for the vast majority of the novel, including what should have been a much happier ending.

Mary Balogh books have always been very hit or miss with me. I either really enjoy them or end up completely disgusted with them. Unfortunately, this one falls into the latter category.

The heroine, Alexandra, had such potential — having been raised in an unloving, ridiculously strict environment, and being forced into an unwanted marriage to a stranger because of something that was completely out of her control, this was her chance for her to really shine. Instead, she acted like a spoiled brat, even going so far as to refuse to marry the man she’d fallen deeply in love with because everyone else told her she had to marry him. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

Don’t get me wrong, I could understand how she would chafe at having her entire world turned upon its head by a thoughtless prank of strangers, and how frustrating her situation had to have been, but there comes a point where you have to pull up your big girl knickers and make the best of what you’ve got. Alex did none of this, and while I could forgive some of her behavior, the sum total left me with nothing but disgust for her character.

Not only that, I found myself far more interested in the burgeoning relationship between James and Madeline, as well as that of Dom and the lovely young Susan. This was most unfortunate for me since, despite the many pages dedicated to these side romances, none of them got a happy ending. Practically everyone in the book ended up miserable, as did this reader at having wasted all that time on a disappointing tale.

1half
1.5/5 Stars

Review: The Lady and the Laird – Nicola Cornick

Lady and the Laird

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Expected Release Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: HQN
Author’s Website: http://nicolacornick.co.uk/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, Scottish Brides
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Public (Forced) Nudity
Favorite Tropes: Forced Marriage, Enemies To Lovers

Official Blurb:

An Indecent Proposal 

Lady Lucy MacMorlan may have forsworn men and marriage, but that doesn’t mean she won’t agree to profit from writing love letters for her brother’s friends—letters that become increasingly racy as her fame grows. That is, until she inadvertently ruins the betrothal of a notorious laird…and a tempting suitor from her past. 

Robert, the dashing Marquis of Methven, is on to Lucy’s secret. And he certainly doesn’t intend to let the lovely Miss MacMorlan have the last word, especially when her letters suggest she is considerably more experienced than he realized. 

But Lucy’s knowledge is not based on past seductions. If she’ll continue to write letters, she’ll need to conduct some firsthand research. Robert has secrets of his own, but he is all too willing to aid a lady in need…

What Worked For Me:

  • I really enjoyed the fact that Lucy wrote naughty letters, especially given how prim and proper she had turned after what happened in her youth.
  • The tension between Robert and Lucy was delicious, and I loved that things progressed slowly on the physical side.
  • On a similar note, I loved that Robert was kind and gentle with Lucy about her fears, rather than bullying her into anything (other than the actual marriage). He so easily could’ve turned all 80’s Alpha Hero and pulled a “forced seduction” on her, but instead he proved what an honorable man he was.
  • I also enjoyed Robert’s back story, and the trip to the island.
  • Despite my extreme hatred for the forced nudity, I really enjoyed the final confrontation, especially the angst when everyone’s secrets were revealed.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • “No widows”, and one sister happens to be a widow, and then no “lady over thirty” but then her other sister just happened to be thirty-one.  Don’t get me wrong, the reasoning behind these seemingly arbitrary rules make sense for an almost ancient treaty — the lady in question must be able to provide an heir and presumably be a virgin, so prior marriages and being of a certain age would understandably be restricted. It was just that it was overly convenient to have these rules and the two unmarried sisters of Lucy would be excluded.
  • There’s a scene at the very end where our vulnerable heroine has her breasts bared in front of several people, and not because it was something she wanted to do.  Automatic loss of a star — I hate when authors do things like that.

An almost silly premise — with the heroine having penned some rather scandalous notes for her brothers and his friends, and one such note having led to a certain Larid being left at the alter by his bride-to-be, and then said Laird sort of blackmailing her into marrying him in her stead — but still quite entertaining.

My biggest problem with the book was of course one of my biggest pet peeves ever – that of “forced nudity”, especially of the public variety.  It was so unnecessary to the scene and did nothing but annoy me, which is a shame, because up until that point, the scene was actually quite well done.

Even so, despite the forced nudity, it was still an easy, enjoyable read, and recommended for fans of forced marriage, enemies to lovers, and surprisingly gentle heroes.

3half

3.5/5 Stars

Review: The Guardian’s Witch – Ruth A. Casie

The Guardian's Witch

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Expected Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://ruthacasie.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series:  No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Laughable Villain, Too Stupid To Live Moment
Favorite Tropes: Arranged/Forced Marriage

Official Blurb:

England, 1290

Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.

Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.

Despite his own vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.

What Worked For Me:

  • I’ve always been a fan of the Arranged Marriage in romance, and this one was especially interesting because the heroine wasn’t even aware that she was married until the book was half over.  Not only was this a change from the heroes that show up and just demand that their new wives warm their beds, but it was fun because the longer Alex went without telling Lisbeth that they’d been married by proxy before his return, the worse it would be to finally tell her. This made for some lovely squirming on his part as well as a nice set up for the Big Reveal. 
  • I adored Lisbeth’s magic, especially in the events around the river.  Up to that point, it seemed that her “powers” were merely in mixing healing potions and maybe some precognitive dreams, but it soon became apparent that the Magic in her veins was indeed, well, magical.
  • One thing that definitely stood out was the chemistry between Alex and Lisbeth. Even though I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about a lot of the “steam” occurring in dreams/visions, it was still pretty hot, so I count it as a positive point.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  •  The villain was ridiculous and not in the least bit frightening. It was painfully obvious early on who the “baddie” was, and even when this person did something dastardly that should have created a lot of drama and tension, it was practically laughed off as just being a bit odd.  This was actually a pretty big negative point for me — if you’re going to have a villain, then have the villain at least be threatening or add intrigue and suspense. If you want the story to be mainly character driven and about the developing relationship between the protagonists, don’t throw in a limpid “villain” to stir the pot. 
  • There is a definite Too Stupid To Live moment on Lisbeth’s part that she frankly should have been thrashed for. She was very lucky we had such an insipid villain or things would have been quite bad for her based on her stubborn and rash actions.
  • While I loved Lisbeth’s magic (especially as it seemed to be getting stronger as the story progressed), I didn’t particularly care for the sudden revelation about Alex and his family at the end. It was an interesting twist, no doubt, but I wish there’d at least been hints of it before his family arrived.

This book had such a good premise to me — a beautiful ward of the king, living in a sort of exile as rumors of witchcraft surround her, is married by proxy to a handsome knight who really wanted her land far more than he wanted her.   As I began to read, and Alex and Lisbeth became actual characters, with their own strengths and weaknesses, the story only got better.

Unfortunately, what sank this story for me was a combination of some incredibly foolish actions on Lisbeth’s part, and a truly ridiculous, weak villain.   I never felt that Lisbeth was ever in any real danger, which meant that there was very little tension in the story.  It was obvious very early on who the villain was, and yet even the Big Reveal was a bit of a let down, and I ended up feeling a bit sorry for the villain rather than happy that justice was being served.

Even so, there was a lovely amount of sexual chemistry between Lisbeth and Alex, and I truly enjoyed her magical and psychic powers.  It just didn’t quite make up for the bland villain and lack of danger.

03stars
3/5 Stars

Review: Loving the Marquess – Suzanna Medieros

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Expected Release Date: March 21, 2013
Publisher: Suzanna Medeiros
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://www.suzannamedeiros.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, Landing A Lord series
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Farfetched Premise (Minor), Too Stupid To Live Moment (Hero)
Favorite Tropes: Scared to Father Heirs, Spinster Heroine, Marriage of Convenience

Official Blurb:

She is on the verge of losing everything…

To save her home and keep her two younger siblings safe, Louisa Evans must turn to the head of the family that ruined hers.

He needs an heir…

The Marquess of Overlea is starting to show signs of having inherited the same illness that killed his father and older brother. To prevent the marquisate from falling into the hands of an unscrupulous cousin, Overlea must secure an heir before that illness also claims him.

But he is determined not to be the father of that heir…

Overlea’s plan is simple—marry the practical, yet desperate, Miss Evans and hold Louisa to her promise to provide him with an heir. But he waits until after they are married to tell his wife that he intends to have another man father that heir. His careful plan becomes complicated by an almost desperate need to claim Louisa for himself and an outside threat that proves even more dangerous than his illness.

What Worked For Me:

  • I really enjoyed Overlea’s “condition”. It wasn’t what I’d expected, honestly, given how popular certain medical conditions are in historical romances at the moment, and I applaud the author for her resourcefulness in coming up with something unusual enough to be interesting but also believable.
  • A guilty pleasure of mine, to be sure, but I do love when a character is forced to marry by an elderly relative.  It admittedly feels a bit contrived at times, especially when you consider that the elderly relative in this case is female, and males at that time had more “power” than the women, but regardless, it was fun to watch her twist Nicholas around and set the entire plot into motion.
  • I also liked the unusual situation and background of Louisa and her family.
  • Even though I also have it listed as a point that didn’t work for me, I did enjoy watching Louisa and Kerrick try to make Nicholas jealous.  I was also very thankful that the plotline was put to rest at what felt like just the right time — not so early in the story as to feel misled by the blurb, but not so late as to feel as though it had been stretched beyond any reasonable belief. I applaud Ms. Medeiros on her sense of timing in that.
  • The steam and chemistry were lovely, with Nicholas of course determined not to touch his wife, and Louisa allowing herself to feel attracted to her handsome husband despite the fact that theirs was not initially a love match.
  • I loved the twist. I’ll be honest, I figured out the who, and a bit of the what, long before everyone else seemed to, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of it at all. Very well done.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • This actually doesn’t count against the final rating, because it’s made very clear in the blurb what the hero’s intentions are regarding an heir, but really, it was bit outlandish, and took quite a bit of willful suspension of disbelief to just accept it and go with the flow.  Admittedly, Ms. Medeiros did a very good job in maneuvering all of the characters in a way that his behavior not only made logical sense, but also kept them from simply refusing him outright, which is another reason it doesn’t count against the final rating. Still, I admit I was relieved when that part of the plot was over and other plotlines were allowed to progress.
  • It’s usually a heroine that has moments where they are simply too stupid to live, but really, Overlea knows that his condition is worsened by drinking, and so he… wait for it…. goes and gets drunk.  Brilliant, right? Now, we’re not talking an ulcer or a bad hangover, no, we’re talking the same condition that killed his father and his brother and that led to the accidental death of his mother.  And he drinks anyway?  Yeah.

The main thing holding this story back was the hero’s bullheadedness. First, is his stubborn resolution to stick with his ridiculous plan to have his best friend father an heir. Sure, it sounded like a good idea in theory, back before he’d actually gotten married, and his “wife” was just a nameless, faceless woman who would be receiving the benefits of his title and wealth, and would simply have to lay with a different man that she didn’t love. Not a big deal, considering that his marriage wouldn’t be a love match to begin with, right?

But his determination to see his plan through, even when it became obvious that the idea of Louisa and Kerrick together made him want to break things, made me want to shake him.  More than that, however, was the fact that he knew that the disease that killed his brother and his father, and by association, his mother, was made worse by alcohol, and yet the man still drank like a fish. It was that stupidity that really made me throw my hands up in the air.

Still, it was a very entertaining read, with plenty of drama and a wonderful twist at the end.

Recommended for fans of marriages of convenience, heroes determined not to beget heirs of their own due to some sort of hereditary condition that they don’t wish to pass on, and heroines just as determined to woo those husbands.

04stars
4/5 Stars