Tempting the Marquess
When Olivia Weston discovers a diary in a dusty, disorganized library, she is intrigued, then fascinated. The diary belonged to Laura, the late wife of the widowed Marquess of Sheldon, Jason Traherne, and tells the story of their fairytale romance. Laura died in a tragic accident, and Jason has shut himself away in his family’s castle ever since. Based on Laura’s behavior in the days before her death, Jason assumes that his beloved wife was having an affair. But Olivia knows the truth – she was trying to settle her profligate brother’s debts, and perished en route to her destination.
When an opportunity arises for Olivia to visit the marquess, she snatches it up. Upon arrival at Castle Arlyss, she realizes that Jason is much worse off than she could have assumed. He has all but shut himself off from society, leading a cold and lonely life, and he has no intention of remarrying. Olivia’s arrival shakes up the castle, and her quirky tendencies are maddening to staid, orderly Jason.
Olivia longs to tell Jason about the diary and to share her knowledge of Laura’s life and feelings for her beloved husband, but every time the opportunity arises, something keeps them from discussing what she knows. There’s an ongoing series of near-misses between the two, especially after they become intimate with each other. Olivia starts to discuss Laura with Jason and becomes distracted, or Jason doesn’t want to hear about it, or something else happens that brings the conversation to an abrupt end.
Though I could identify with Olivia as a librarian, she can be a little ditzy and clueless, and there are situations where her quirkiness level is dialed up a bit too high. I’m all for heroines who are different, even odd, but quirky for the sake of quirky gets grating after a while. Jason’s your classic dark-and-brooding hero, hiding out in his castle waiting for the right lady to arrive and melt his heart. The misunderstandings that are peppered throughout the book are your standard fare, and the cute children who want Olivia and Jason to get together are contrived.
One thing I definitely appreciated about this novel: there was no fake-y suspense inserted for the sake of having a suspenseful subplot. I really do enjoy a straight-up love story sometimes, without having a subplot featuring blackmail or murder or horse thievery worked in for kicks. The romance between Olivia and Jason was consistently at the center of the plot, with very few subplots and a limited number of secondary characters.
I wanted to like Tempting the Marquess so badly, and in the end, it was slightly better than average, although not super memorable. There’s promise here, though, and I’d read another novel in the Weston series to see if I enjoy it a little more.