When the Marquess Falls (Hellions of Havisham Hall #3.5) by Lorraine Heath

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

The Marquess of Marsden always follows the rules. Expected from birth to adhere to decades of tradition, he plans to marry a proper young woman from a good family. But when a beautiful, and completely unsuitable, woman snags his heart, he begins to realize that to get what you want, sometimes you have to break the rules.

Linnie Connor dreams of the independence of running her very own bakery. And while she may be allowed to be a marquess’ childhood companion, the baker’s daughter never ends up with the handsome nobleman. Determined to achieve at least one of her dreams, Linnie makes plans to leave her sleepy village for London, intent on purging him from her heart. And yet, when an invitation to the Marsden annual ball arrives, she can’t refuse her one chance to waltz in his arms.

It will be a night that stirs the flames of forbidden desires and changes their lives forever.

Rating: B-

I knew, when I picked up this coda novella to Lorraine Heath’s Hellions of Havisham series, that I was going to be reduced to a quivering wreck by the end of it. I suppose that’s a considerable achievement on the part of the author – zero-to-sobbing in under 100 pages!

If you’ve read the final book in the trilogy, The Viscount and the Vixen, then you’ll know where When the Marquess Falls is going to end up, but I nonetheless appreciate the fact that Ms. Heath decided to tell the story of Marsden and his Linnie, which is very sweet and very sad – although don’t despair, there IS an HEA (albeit a slightly different sort of one). In terms of the structure, it’s more of a series of vignettes than a cohesively plotted novella, but that format works well here.

By the time we met George St. John, Marquess of Marsden in Falling into Bed with a Duke, he had already lost the love of his life following the birth of their son six years earlier. He stopped all the clocks, stopped caring about anything very much, and acquired the sobriquets the “mad marquess” or “mad Marsden” because the few remaining servants at Havisham Hall often heard him talking to his dead wife.

But it wasn’t always that way – and in this novella, we get to see George and Linnie’s first meeting when he’s twelve and she’s eight, and how, in spite of the massive differences in their stations (he’s a peer, she’s a baker’s daughter) they forge a friendship that remains steadfast as they grow older. By the time they’re in their twenties, friendship isn’t all they want from each other – but nothing else is possible, and in any case, Linnie has plans to move to London and set up a bakery of her own and George must find a suitable lady to marry.  The strength of the connection between them is impossible to deny – but finding a way to be together might be just plain impossible.

Ms. Heath paints George and Linnie with broad brushstrokes, but they’re both warm and engaging characters and you are just rooting for them to be together.  The glimpses we got of Marsden in The Viscount and the Vixen as a man capable of great charm and warmth are borne out here, as George emerges as an honourable, kind man who is prepared to fly in the face of convention for the woman he loves.  And Linnie is… well, she’s a bit too good to be true, to be honest, but she’s lovely; brave, intelligent and loving, it’s easy to see why, after a few years of marriage, she won over all but the biggest sticklers in the neighbourhood.

I enjoyed the story, but given that Lorraine Heath is one of those authors who usually finds a way to rip out my heart and stomp on it, I had to make sure I had the Kleenex handy.  If you haven’t read any of the books to which this novella is related, then it won’t make much sense to you – and please take note that even though it is set partly before the Hellions series begins, it’s NOT a prequel.

A quick read, and a nice way to round out the series, When the Marquess Falls really is one for the fans.  If you’ve read the series and want to find out a little more about Marsden, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, but you can leave the series at The Viscount and the Vixen without missing anything.

NB: The final 10% of the Kindle edition is a preview of Ms. Heath’s forthcoming novel, An Affair With a Notorious Heiress.

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