Desert Isle Keeper
Confessions From An Arranged Marriage
I thoroughly enjoy Miranda Neville’s historical romances, which is why I bought an eCopy of Confessions from an Arranged Marriage the day it was published. It turned out to be my favorite kind of romance: A novel about flawed but likeable characters finding strength in themselves and the people around them. It was a delightful, funny, and moving read that I found almost impossible to put down.
The novel begins with Miss Minerva Montrose’s come-out ball at the house of the Duke of Hampton, a connection of Minerva’s through her sister Diana’a marriage to the Duke’s nephew. Minerva is supposed to open the ball with the Duke’s heir, the Marquis of Blakeney, but he does not turn up in time. When he does arrive, he is drunk, unrepentant, and exchanges snide remarks with her. Blake and Minerva have disliked each other intensely for years. He thinks she is a conceited know-it-all, while she considers him a proud, supercilious, unintelligent care-for-nothing. Actually, each is right about the other – to a degree.
At the ball, Blake meets a former schoolmate, and we find out he is being blackmailed. As a result, he drinks even more, and coming across a lady lying on a sofa in the library, he embarks on giving her a delicious amorous surprise. But the lady is Minerva, having lain down with a headache powder, and she and Blake are discovered in a most compromising situation. The scandal is impossible to hush, and if they want to salvage their reputations, they must be married.
If the story so far depends a bit too much on coincidence, this changes with the beginning of the negotiations for the marriage. It’s not that Blake and Minerva do not have a choice; they do. The implications for themselves and their families are grave if they refuse to marry, however. In addition, for Minerva, whose main ambition in life is becoming the wife and helpmeet of an influential politician, marriage into the powerful Vanderlin family is like a dream come true. While Blake continues to behave badly in some scenes, in an encounter with Minerva’s older sister Diana (heroine of The Dangerous Viscount), it becomes clear that Diana both likes and respects him.
So here’s what I absolutely adore about Miranda Neville’s novels: She refuses to deal in black and white, and she always places her characters in a social context. Thus Minerva may have both selfless and self-serving reasons for accepting Blake, and while Blake acts like a cad at times, observing his motives and the struggles he goes through as his nobler side emerges, raised my sympathies for him. The Montrose and Vanderlin families and their interactions are a delight, and the insight the novel provides into the workings of a ducal household and of the machinations during a house party held by a powerful political figure fascinated me. No wallpaper dukes and duchesses here!
Around page 60 the reason why Blake is blackmailed is revealed, and it turns out that his problem is a serious one which has affected his life to a remarkable and rather tragic degree. It has led to isolation and to behaving badly on purpose to prevent others from guessing at his shame. As a result, Blake has next to no sense of self-worth.
Intellectual Minerva, on the other hand, is most decidedly self-assured and has a strong, sometimes exaggerated, belief in her capabilities, knowledge and discernment. With this, however, comes a strong streak of practicality and willingness of accept blame for her mistakes when she has gotten into a scrape (which she does several times – never of the same sort, though). She is also very much prepared to appreciate Blake as she comes to know him better.
Accordingly, Blake and Minerva’s marriage is very much built on the ground that they complement each other almost ideally, something they slowly recognize. Other important grounds are shared sense of humor, a shared enthusiasm for sex (discovered some time into their marriage), and a shared sense of responsibility. Each one’s road towards discovery of the other’s true nature and the nature of their relationship is both funny and heart-stoppingly moving, sometimes at the same time. My favorite scenes in this department are the moment when Blake discovers he’s in love, and the moment when he and Minerva first discuss his problem openly – the latter is rendered in a rather low-key, down-to-earth way, but pitch-perfect in its emotional intensity.
Two minor aspects: The sex scenes are hot and numerous in the second half of the novel, but they tend to be on the shortish side. I prefer them this way, but if you want pages and pages of extremely detailed steamy sex, you might be disappointed. Also, The novel’s title is not really appropriate (I’m looking at you, Avon). The marriage in question is not an arranged one, it is a fairly impromptu marriage of convenience in order to avoid a scandal. On the plus side, the couple on the cover looks just perfect!
I utterly enjoyed reading Confessions from an Arranged Marriage. I loved the mixture of common sense and fanciful flights that is Minerva, and I absolutely adored Blake and his road towards self-esteem and opening himself to love. I loved the grounding in reality the novel provides. The next Miranda Neville romance is announced for November; I hope it’s about Blake’s sister Amanda. I can’t wait!