I was greatly looking forward to Linden’s When the Marquess Was Mine because I loved the previous Wagers of Sin romance, An Earl Like You. The Marquess didn’t capture me as deeply as the Earl did, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Certainly, the premise intrigued me because AMNESIAC hero narrative!
When the romance opens, our privileged, wealthy, heir-to-a-dukedom hero, Robert Churchill-Gray, Marquess of Westmorland, is celebrating his 29th birthday, with his equally rogue-ish friends, by drinking and gambling at the Vega Club. Foolishly, one of the players, Sir Charles Winston, loses his Derbyshire home, Osbourne House, to Rob. When Rob’s father, the Duke of Rowland, catches wind of the shenanigans, he sends Rob to Winston’s seat to return the deed to his wife, Kitty, there rusticating with her six-month-old, Annabel. Her companion is her bosom friend, Lady Georgianna Lucas, enjoying the country air away from London and the now summer-dwindled season. As Rob nears Osbourne House, he is beset by nasties, beaten about the head, and left for dead. Georgianna, out riding with a groom, finds him injured and unconscious and realizes he is the marquess Charles wrote to Kitty about, out to oust them from their home, and generally make everyone miserable with his arrogant self.
Linden opens the romance with a Pride and Prejudice vibe. Georgianna overheard Westmorland declare her a shallow flirt at a tonnish London event. Since then, she’s steered clear of his sharp tongue and sneering demeanour; with the addition of Charles’s fears and fibs about him, she is even less well-disposed to him. But, as we learn, Georgianna is, at core, kind and soft-hearted, and she cannot abandon a man to die on the road, even one as hateful as Westmorland. She and the groom carry Rob to Osbourne House; afraid of Kitty’s reaction to Westmorland, Georgianna claims the near-dead man is her fiancé, Lord Sterling. However foolish an action, until Westmorland awakes, she can keep the peace and ensure he recovers, which he does, with her gentle night-and-day nursing.
Ah, but here’s the rub, when Westmorland awakes, he does not remember who he is. For all intents and purposes, he is Georgianna suddenly loving, attentive, gentle, and shiveringly handsome fiancé. The head bumps and subsequent amnesia render Westmorland into her adorable, affectionate, considerate Rob. An idyllic few weeks ensue until the ruse is out. The whole while, however, Rob and Georgianna have fallen in love and the rest of the novel concerns itself with untangling fiancés, identities, and resolving the complications that arise when we first set out to deceive.
I did not embrace When the Marquess Was Mine as I did An Earl Like You, at least not until the elaborate plot gave way to getting to know Georgianna and Rob more intimately. As in An Earl Like You, Linden has a great talent at showing you how compatible and right her hero and heroine are for each other. This is as true of Rob and Georgianna as it was of Eliza and Hugh. She has cleverly, in this third volume, flipped the deception theme: where Hugh was hiding truth from Eliza, Georgianna is hiding it from Rob. But Linden never resorts to hurt feelings from the Big Mis. Characters talk to each other, resolve differences and misunderstandings, are forgiving and loveable toward each other, care for each other, show affection. These emotions take precedence over the overwrought lustful thoughts that hero and heroines are too-often heir to in romance narratives.
Linden centres the romance conflict, in this case, outside of Georgianna and Rob’s relationship. This caused my interest to dip. At this point, however, my affection for Geogrianna and Rob exceeded my touch of reader-ennui. Unfortunately, Linden inserts a sudden drama at the romance’s conclusion in order to bring the truth to light and the initial characters together. I can’t say I loved it, or was that invested in it, but Georgianna and Rob’s HEA, of which we enjoy a lovely glimpse, redeemed the out-of-the-blue ending. Not as immersively, emotionally successful as An Earl Like You, but still a fine read. With Miss Austen, we’d say When the Marquess Was Mine offers “real comfort,” Emma.
Caroline Linden’s When the Marquess Was Mine is published by Avon Books. It was released in September 2019 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from Avon Books, via Edelweiss+.