From the desk of Pamela Mingle:
Every good Regency romance deserves a manipulative old dowager. In this book, it’s Great Aunt Agatha. She tells the Duke of Everingham, called Hart, that her niece would “…rather live with dogs and horses than marry.” Likewise, she tells her niece that the duke would never consider her for a wife, “…ill-trained, boyish, impertinent hoyden” that she is. Of course, this serves to pique the interest of both. Anne Gracie’s Marry in Scarlet, book four in the “Marriage of Convenience” series, is a delightful romp portraying the gradual coming together of a pompous duke and a reluctant lady.
The heroine, named Georgiana but called George, finds Aunt Agatha’s machinations annoying in the extreme. She’s acquainted with the duke and he has “…irritated her with his cold, hard gaze, so indifferent and superior and I-rule-the-world.”
George and Hart see each other frequently, mainly because he wants it that way. When he catches a glimpse of George riding her horse, he’s impressed. Hart makes an offer—for the horse, not George, who immediately refuses. Her horse is not for sale, to anyone. Hart thinks the selling/breeding of horses should not be a woman’s business.
The two meet at the opera, where she shushes him and his friends. He’s fascinated with how enraptured she is with the singing. Despite the fact that she insults him, calling him an arrogant boor, Hart is enchanted. And aroused.
At a London ball, George hides in the conservatory to get away from Lord Towsett, a man whose numerous proposals of marriage continue despite her staunch refusals. Unexpectedly, Hart sneaks into her hiding place because he too is escaping from marriage-minded pursuers. Later, Hart confronts Towsett and forces him to leave the ball, extracting a promise that he’ll never bother George again.
Recently the duke was jilted by a member of George’s extended family. When he arrives at the ball in honor of the lady and her new husband, George is sure he’s come to make trouble. She’s correct, but it’s not the kind of trouble she expected. Hart steals the supper dance with George, and she’s bowled over by his touch, his scent, his strength.
On his way home that night, Hart wonders if George may be the perfect wife for him. He doesn’t want a woman “…who’d hang off his sleeve and be endlessly demanding. And emotional.” His final thought on the matter: “Lady Georgiana Rutherford. Elusive, rebellious, untamable. He always did enjoy a hunt.”
At a musical evening, the duke tricks George into a secret liaison, and they share a passionate kiss. George is overcome by her attraction to him. When they’re discovered by Great Aunt Agatha and a number of other witnesses, Hart announces they’d just become engaged. George is outraged. She refuses his offer of marriage, but, without consulting her first, he sends notice of their betrothal to the papers. That only increases George’s determination to reject him.
When her refusal to accept Hart persists, Aunt Agatha takes George to meet the duke’s mother, a controlling woman who pretends to be at death’s door and begs George to marry Hart so she can leave this world peacefully. How could George deny a dying woman her last request? She gives in and tells Hart she’ll wed him. Later, when Hart finds out why she capitulated, he releases her from her promise. George is shocked and begins to realize there’s more to the man than she realized.
Marry in Scarlet provides many humorous moments, especially in George’s derogatory thoughts about Hart, whom she calls His Grace the Duke of Arrogance. George’s idea that her attraction to Hart will just go away if she simply tries hard enough to banish it is comical. And the numerous tips-of-the-hat to both Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer were fun to spot. But what I especially liked was each character’s willingness to do some soul searching and conclude that they’d been wrong in their judgment of each other.
The novel was a bit too long, which slowed the pacing, especially in the first half of the book. And if you haven’t read the previous books, the large cast of characters in George’s family can be confusing.
A handsome, arrogant duke. A down-to-earth heroine who’s a bit befuddled by her strong feelings toward him. It all makes for a heartwarming and satisfying read.
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Marry in Scarlet, Marriage of Convenience Series (Book 4), by Anne Gracie
Berkley Publishing (May 26, 2020)
Mass market paperback, eBook, & Audiobook (336)
Cover image courtesy of Berkley © 2020; text Pamela Mingle © 2020, Austenprose.com