The Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When you marry a person, you marry their family, bad and good. Both Miranda and Marcus take their share of family baggage into their marriage. Miranda's family is not good ton at all, with some quite shocking scandal in their background, and Marcus' family is full of ugly secrets and betrayal. Honestly, this book has some dark aspects to it. Marcus' brother was a real piece of work. He starts trying to destroy Marcus and Miranda's marriage from the beginning, and Miranda is naive to his schemes, and just lonely enough and unacquainted with her husband to fall into his trap. I didn't particularly like that Marcus and Miranda spend a chunk of time apart for the 1st part of this book, but I understand why this was done, in light of the plot device of St. John's machinations against the newly wedded couple. I hadn't made up my mind about my feelings about Miranda being attracted to and somewhat susceptible to St. John's charms. When the reveal comes at the end, that makes sense as well. And in a way, it made me love Marcus and respect Miranda more. She was just a normal woman, with all the feelings that women feel, and a neglected bride. And Marcus for fighting to overcome his understandable fears and insecurities due to his disastrous first marriage, and St. John's role in destroying it. In light of those aspects of realistically flawed humanity evident and a very tangled web woven around her, and how she does try to be honorable about it, I couldn't really hold what happens against her. Admittedly, I was glad that things didn't go too far, although there were some uncomfortable moments where I yelled at the page, my stomach clenched into a knot.
Overall, I think the elements that challenged me about this book made it a stronger read for me. This book falls into the darker regency category just because of the emotional tangles that exist between Marcus and St. John, and how Miranda gets caught in that trap, but untangles both herself and Marcus from it with the power of her love and loyalty for him, her strong nature tested by a rocky life prior to becoming Marcus' duchess, and her determination to stand by her husband and honor her vows, even if that was harder than she thought it would be.
I'd have to give this book four stars because it packed a punch, and I really did enjoy the journey of strangers coerced into marriage to a couple deeply in love with each other.
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