A Prudent Match
The first line of A Prudent Match is: “Do you William Ledbetter, take this woman for your lawful wedded wife?” You know what that means don’t you? It means a marriage of convenience. When I read the first page of a Regency Romance and find wedding vows, I can’t help smiling. Unfortunately A Prudent Match doesn’t quite live up to its promise, focusing as it does, on domestic disagreements and minor misunderstandings. Nevertheless Regency Romance fans who dote on marriage of convenience stories will probably enjoy it.
William Ledbetter, Eighth Baron Ledbetter, is marrying Prudence, an heiress, whom he has courted for only three weeks. William is in need of ready cash. Prudence, having suffered the death of a long time fiancé, is under pressure from her sisters to marry quickly, so that they can get on with their own futures. Immediately after the ceremony the couple head for William’s estate to begin married life. No crisis prompted this wedding and no terrible conflict stands between the bride and groom. They are simply two well-to-do people who don’t know each other very well and are now attached for life.
Just as William and Prudence are strangers to each other they are strangers to us, the readers. Author Laura Matthews doesn’t do a lot of explaining about how these two feel about each other or even the kind of people that they are. Instead she reveals Prudence’s and William’s personalities through the things that they do and say in these first days of marriage.
William and Prudence want to get along but they soon discover that they disagree about things. Prudence, despite her willingness to marry, is afraid of intimate relations. Also, a host of domestic problems arise from the different expectations that the two have for marriage. On the trip to the estate Prudence hires a dresser at a roadside inn. William is annoyed that he was not consulted. Then when they are at the estate, William wishes to retire the gardener, who is deaf. Prudence believes that he should be kept on. William announces unexpectedly that he needs to go to London for a time. Prudence objects, saying that she is afraid that everyone will think that he is abandoning her after marrying her for her money. Later there is an issue with Ledbetter’s mother’s bequest of an oversized organ to the church and suspicion that his father sired a son out of wedlock.
William is attracted to his wife and does his best to be patient with her and acclimate her slowly to the physical side of married life. When he realizes that making love to Prudence will upset her, he sets about a step-by-step plan to consummate the marriage. These nightly meetings and attempts at lovemaking are what works best in A Prudent Match. When explaining sex to his wife, William is funny and attractive. It’s when he is out of bed that I found myself losing interest in him. William seems like a decent sort of man, though a rather uninteresting one. For example, he ruminates that keeping mistress and a wife seems a rather expensive proposition, though he knows many men do it. As a result he doubts he will keep one.
Now I don’t mind a hero who wonders if he will keep a mistress, but one who decides against it because of the expense? Clever maybe, but rather dull.
Prudence, raised to be the perfect wife, is a shy sort of woman, annoyingly unwilling to make her wishes known on many subjects. When they argue over something such as William’s travel away from home, she refuses to tell him why his leaving bothers her or what she herself wants. Although this has a ring of truth to it, I felt like shaking her.
The book chronicles the first few weeks of the couple’s life as Prudence and William go from being strangers to companions to finally falling in love. Some parts of this journey, the lovemaking in particular, are romantic and satisfying. But, when out of the bedroom, the arguments grow too mundane. I was reminded of those stories that used to appear in women’s magazines, about arguments between young marrieds and their disagreements over her attempts at cooking and his failure to take out the trash.
Towards the end of the book there is a revelation about the reason for this marriage. It’s too much of a spoiler to explain but given the thoughts that William and Prudence have had up to this point, the revelation seemed like an afterthought. I found this information so inconsistent with the rest of the book that it made the up-until-then B- story into a C+.
A Prudent Match isn’t a bad book but it could been a very good one if the author had made the character’s thoughts and discussions focus on a few big problems. I wanted Prudence and William to argue about the real differences that separated them; her fear of abandonment and his physical needs – not about whether to keep the gardener.
Nevertheless A Prudent Match has its moments and I am sure that it will have its fans. If you are a devoted fan of both traditional Regencies and marriages of convenience you might enjoy the travails of these two newly wedded strangers.