The Secret Marriage Pact (The Business of Marriage #3) by Georgie Lee

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

An improper proposal!

Jane Rathbone is used to being left behind, and no longer believes she deserves happiness. But when childhood friend Jasper Charton returns from the Americas, more dangerously sexy than ever, she has a proposition. She’ll give him the property he needs if he’ll give her a new future–by marrying her!

Jasper never imagined taking a wife, but wonders if loyal Jane could be his redemption. And when their marriage brings tantalizing pleasures, convenient vows blossom into a connection that could heal them both…

Rating: B

Georgie Lee continues her Business of Marriage series with The Secret Marriage Pact, a friends-to-lovers story which reunites two childhood friends after almost a decade apart.  Jane Rathbone and Jasper Charton were almost inseparable as children, but the nine years Jasper has spent in America have changed him and he has returned home a troubled man, weighed down by guilt he is unable to shake off and secrets he is unable to share.

We first met Jane as a teenager in A Debt Paid in Marriage and now, almost a decade later, she’s a shrewd, intelligent young woman of twenty-three with an eye for a bargain and almost as good a head for business as her brother, Phillip.  Unfortunately, however, she has recently become the subject of ridicule because her fiancé – Jasper’s brother, Milton – eloped with another woman just two weeks before he and Jane were due to be married.  While Jane isn’t exactly heartbroken – she wasn’t in love with Milton, but she’d liked the idea of having a husband who was a friend – she’s furious about being made a laughing-stock. This leads her to bid against him at a property auction and to buy the Fleet Street building he had been bidding for – but her satisfaction at beating him is short lived when she learns he had actually been acting for Jasper, recently returned from America and who wanted the property in order to start a business.

Jane is thrilled but also wary of meeting Jasper again after all these years.  As children, she and the Charton brothers were extremely close, forever running around together causing mayhem and creating mischief, but things changed when, at fifteen, Jasper was told he would be going to Savannah to learn the cotton business from his maternal uncle.  Jane had already realised she felt more than friendship for Jasper and told him before he left that she would wait for him, but he didn’t think he’d ever return and rebuffed her.

Now, however, Jane is determined not to accept rebuffs or excuses and instead conceives a plan which could help both of them.  Jasper wants the building she purchased and she wants freedom from the restrictions she has to endure as a single woman.  Getting married would mean they could both get what they want while working together to establish Jasper’s business venture.

Their old connection is as strong as ever – although now, it comes with the added piquancy of mutual sexual attraction – but Jasper is astonished at Jane’s proposal and equally surprised to find himself tempted by it.  Even though he told her not to wait for him when he left, he has never forgotten her and continues to harbour feelings for her that go beyond friendship.  But the things he has seen and done in the last nine years have profoundly affected him, and the last thing he wants to do is to weigh her down with his secrets and corrupt her the same way the life he’s led has corrupted him.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

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