A SHOCKING DECEPTION . . .
Josephine Carlisle, adopted daughter of a baron, is officially on the shelf. But the silly, marriage-minded misses in the ton can have their frilly dresses and their seasons in London, for all she cares. Josie has her freedom and her family . . . until an encounter with a dark, devilishly handsome stranger leaves her utterly breathless at a house party. His wicked charm intrigues her, but that’s where it ends. For Josie has a little secret . . .
. . . LEADS TO AN EXQUISITE SEDUCTION
Espionage was Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney’s game-until a tragic accident cost him his career. Now to salvage his reputation and return to the life he loves, the marquess must find the criminal who’s been robbing London’s rich and powerful. He’s no fool-he knows Josie, with her wild chestnut hair and rapier-sharp wit, is hiding something and he won’t rest until he unravels her mysteries, one by one. But he never expected to be the one under arrest-body and soul . . .
This is the third book in Anna Harrington’s Secret Life of Scoundrels trilogy which follows three men who served together during the Napoleonic Wars as they find love and a happily ever after. I reviewed the previous book, Along Came a Rogue, and while I had some issues with the pacing and certain aspects of the plot, I enjoyed it overall and felt that the two leads shared a strong emotional connection. I was therefore eager to read the final book in the series, but oh, dear – what a disappointment.
I reckon that approximately seventy-five percent of How I Married a Marquess is comprised on the following: intense make-out sessions, sex scenes and mental-lusting by the bucket-load. Actually, I suspect that’s a conservative estimate. The story, such as it is, is buried beneath the shed-load of “how could he make her feel this way?”s and “no other woman had ever had this effect on him”s (my paraphrases); the hero is a selfish git for much of the story and the heroine has way too many TSTL moments.
We met Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney in the last book, when he was shot and critically injured. This story takes place around a year later, but while he has fully recovered physically, he is suffering from what I can only suppose is a form of PTSD, because he is plagued by recurring nightmares, jumps at loud noises and has panic attacks, which he generally wards off by shagging whichever of his current paramours is to hand.
What he wants, more than anything, is to get his old life back. Following his army service, he worked for the War Office as a spy, but since his injury it seems that intelligence work is not an option as word has spread that he has ‘lost his nerve’. So when the Earl of Royston contacts him to ask for his help in apprehending a highwayman who is robbing his houseguests and promises that he will pull some strings at the War Office in return, Thomas jumps at the chance to prove himself and heads off to Royston’s country estate in Lincolnshire to join the house party.
On his first evening there, he encounters Josephine, daughter of Lord and Lady Carlisle, and is immediately and strongly attracted to her. He likes her intelligence and her spirit and wants her with a ferocity he’s never before felt for any woman; but he is intent on getting his life back and has no interest in any permanent attachment, which is, of course, the only type of attachment possible when the lady in question is, well, a lady.
But Josephine has secrets, and her first conversation with Thomas spooks her badly when she realises he is the sort of man who will be able to discover them. How she knows this when she’s known him for less than five minutes, I have no idea, but there it is. She tries to avoid him, but the pull of his heated sapphire gaze and overall gorgeousness is too much for her to resist, their first kiss takes place the next morning and after that, they’re snogging each other silly at almost every opportunity. I counted four make-out sessions by the 40% mark, and my Goodreads update says: “Some authors need to learn that sometimes, less is more and that there is more to creating sexual tension than having your H/h sucking face every ten pages.”
Although Josephine has been brought up by the Carlisles, she is actually an orphan, adopted by them when she was six. Not surprisingly, she is committed to helping the orphans that remain at the Good Hope Orphanage and has discovered that Royston, who is the patron, has some sort of scheme going on whereby he arranges for the by blows of the nobility to be placed there in return for political favours. Having no proof, she can’t expose him, so instead she does what she can for the place financially… and I don’t think it will come as any surprise when Jo’s Big Secret is revealed.
That is pretty much the extent of the plot. Thomas wants Jo to give up her dangerous hobby, she refuses. Even when she is almost caught, she still refuses, and then ignores his clear instructions to lay low – which are, admittedly, a bit heavy-handed, but nonetheless expressed in terms of concern for her safety. That’s an excursion way too far into TSTL territory in my book. Mind you, Thomas isn’t any more likeable. He’s quite sexy in a dark, brooding “I must have you NOW!” kind of way, and on the few occasions he gets to show his Sooper Spy Skillz, it’s obvious he was good at his job. But his focus is so firmly on returning to his life as a spy that for most of the book, Jo runs a poor second to that ambition, even though her sexual healing miraculously cures his PTSD.
It’s clear from the previous novel in the series that Anna Harrington can write, knows how to tell a story and can create attractive characters. Towards the end of this book, Thomas’ plan to thwart Royston, keep Jo out of danger and rescue a wrongly-imprisoned man is well-written and fun to read, but it’s too little too late. Otherwise, How I Married a Marquess has little plot to speak of, the central characters are unappealing and practically the entire book revolves around sex. If Thomas and Josephine aren’t doing it, then they’re thinking about it, and my eyes started to glaze over every time they started an internal monologue about how attractive the other person was and how much they wanted to roger them stupid. I like a bit of steam as much as the next person, but there needs to be an appropriate build up, and that just isn’t present. There is hardly any sexual tension between the couple because they get into the sexual situations so quickly, and there is no sense of any deeper emotional connection between them.
At this point in a review, I might normally sum up by saying something like “if you enjoyed the author’s other books, then you might like this one”, but given that I’ve enjoyed other books by Ms. Harrington and didn’t enjoy this one, I’m not going to. In fact, I think that anyone who enjoyed her other books is likely to be disappointed.