>> Saturday, October 22, 2011
Step into a world of scandal, intrigue, and enthralling passion as New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh sweeps us into the lives of an extraordinary family: the Huxtables. Margaret, the eldest, embarks on the most risqué adventure of her life and agrees to marry the most notorious man in London.…Scandalous is a favourite word of romance novel marketers, often even inserted in titles of books where there is no scandal to be seen. But to call Duncan Pennethorne scandalous is no exaggeration. He earned that description 5 years earlier, when he dumped his fiancee right before the wedding and ran off to the continent with her sister-in-law (and no, this wasn't even a widowed sister-in-law, she was very much married).
Only desperation could bring Duncan Pennethorne, the infamous Earl of Sheringford, back home after the spectacular scandal that had shocked even the jaded ton. Forced to wed in fifteen days or be cut off without a penny, Duncan chooses the one woman in London in frantic need of a husband. A lie to an old flame forces Margaret Huxtable to accept the irresistible stranger’s offer. But once she discovers who he really is, it’s too late—she’s already betrothed to the wickedly sensual rakehell. Quickly she issues an ultimatum: If Duncan wants her, he must woo her. And as passion slowly ignites, two people marrying for all the wrong reasons are discovering the joys of seduction—and awaiting the exquisite pleasure of what comes after…
Just returned to England, Duncan is now the Earl of Sheringford and he's got that very typical romance novel dilemma: his grandfather is threatening to cut him off completely unless he gets married to someone respectable, and he's only got a matter of days to find such a bride.
Margaret is the eldest of the Huxtables. The family grew up in genteel poverty until her brother, Stephen, turned out to be the heir to a title (see my review of First Comes Marriage for more detail). With their parents dead, the responsibility for bringing up her siblings fell mostly on Margaret, and so when her fiancé went off to war and insisted they get married beforehand, she felt she had to refuse and stay with her family. The fiancé insisted he'd wait for her, blah, blah, blah, but ended up marrying someone else before his return.
Years later, Margaret is pretty much an old maid, and when her former fiancé shows up in society, her pride doesn't allow her to admit she's alone. So she invents a secret fiancé... not as stupid as it sounds, since there's this nice but very staid man who's proposed a few times, and Margaret just thinks to herself that she'll accept next time he does. However, her plans go belly-up when the guy comes to her with the news that he's fallen madly in love and proposed to someone else.
Can you guess what happens next? Man in urgent need of a wife, woman in urgent need of a secret fiancé... yep, marriage of convenience. After a chance encounter, Duncan proposes and Margaret accepts, and the engagement is announced, all before she realises just how scandalous Duncan's past is.
At Last Comes Love provides exactly what a marriage-of-convenience story should: the wonder of two strangers forced to spend time with each other and realising that they truly like the person they've almost accidentally ended up with, and that a relationship which promised contentment at best, might actually deliver love.
Margaret had come across in the previous 2 books as a the good and self-sacrificing type, possibly a bit boring. But there were indications even then that there was a real person underneath, one with real feelings, and human enough that, though she didn't regret having made the decisions she did, she somewhat resented not having been able to choose her own happiness. And in a way, Duncan is in a very similar situation. As you might have imagined, there's a lot more to the big scandal in his past than meets the eye, and he and Margaret have a surprising amount in common. I loved seeing them look beyond appearances and discover this, and I also loved seeing them finally get the happiness they deserve.
MY GRADE: A B+.