His Runaway Marchioness Returns
Marguerite Kaye consistently produces well-written, well-researched historical romances featuring characters and situations that are often quite different to those found in most other books in the genre. She’s as likely to write about non-aristocratic characters as otherwise, and although His Runaway Marchioness Returns does feature a titled hero, his situation in life – coming into a title at thirty-four as a self-made man – and his progressive views align him far more closely with the ranks of the new entrepreneurs and industrialists than with the aristocracy.
Oliver Turner married Lilian Grantham twelve years earlier in order to fulfil a promise made to his best friend Anthony – Lilian’s brother – before he died. It was purely a business arrangement; they married secretly, living separately in different parts of England until Lily left the country eight years ago, her ‘abandonment’ meant eventually to provide grounds for divorce. But neither of them has been in a hurry to end the marriage, both busy with their own businesses and their own lives, so Oliver is surprised to receive a letter from Lily indicating that she wants to finalise the arrangements for their divorce. When the book begins, Oliver is preparing to meet his wife again for the first time in eight years.
Lily’s request that they now pursue their divorce couldn’t have come at a worse time for Oliver. Owing to the unexpected death of his cousin, Oliver has become the Marquess of Rashfield, and because of an unusual clause relating to the inheritance, must be married in order to be able to fully take the reins of the management of the estate and finances. Oliver is married of course – but as he has never mentioned his marriage to anyone, he is widely believed to be a bachelor and he can’t suddenly produce a wife of twelve-years standing and expect there not to be questions as to the validity of the marriage or his motivations. He is determined to honour his promise to Lily, although he requests a short delay. He has mounted a legal challenge to that condition in his cousin’s will (something that was first instigated hundreds of years earlier and has been left simply because no other marquess has bothered to change it), and hopes for a ruling hin his favour, but the delay is frustrating. The previous marquess being in poor health means there are many things around the estate that need attention and the tenants are suffering, but Oliver isn’t prepared to put Lily and her life under the spotlight, so his best option is to rely on the court’s judgment coming soon.
But Lily has a better idea. Rather than relying on the court – which could drag on for ages – they should go to France, marry again (which they can legally do), announce their whirlwind courtship and marriage on their return to England and then announce it was a mistake and divorce after a suitable time has elapsed. Oliver is reluctant – Lily has made a life for herself elsewhere and he doesn’t want her to give it up – but she won’t hear of his objections, and it’s not long before the new Marquess and Marchioness of Rashfield emerge to take society by storm.
His Runaway Marchioness Returns provides an unusual twist on the marriage of convenience trope, because the characters are already married and intent on divorce when we meet them. The author does an excellent job of showing us just how well suited they are right from the very beginning; there’s definitely attraction on both sides, but that isn’t all there is between them because theirs is a marriage of minds as much as anything else. Oliver is delighted to discover that Lily is as career and business oriented as he is himself, and I enjoyed watching them discussing their work, their plans for the future and coming up with ways to present themselves and their marriage to society. The author draws some knowing parallels between today’s obsession with celebrity culture and the way Oliver and Lily have to face down newspaper gossip and scandal sheets, coming up with schemes to confound expectations and turn the tide of any potential negativity.
Both protagonists are in their early thirties and have worked hard building their lives and businesses, so there’s a real sense of maturity to them and their romance, which I very much appreciated. Oliver is a very appealing hero – unconventional and confident in his aims but prepared to listen and take other points of view on board, he’s far more concerned with industry and his philanthropic endeavours than he is with the business of being a marquess. And Lily is an interesting and unusual heroine, having made her living – very successfully – for the past few years as a theatrical agent in Paris. The author writes their mutual attraction and eventual physical passion really well – this is one Mills & Boon/Harlequin Historical that deserves its warm rating – and I liked that the couple’s attitude towards their previous sexual experiences is a non-issue. Specifically, Oliver is not surprised or horrified that Lily has had lovers. I was also pleased to note that there’s no emphasis on having children; so often marriage of convenience stories revolve around the couple having to come together in order to produce an heir, but that is quickly dispensed with here (and Oliver uses protection).
As Oliver and Lily become closer and the ending of their time together draws nearer, the subject of Lily’s return to Paris and their divorce looms large – and it’s hard to see how their HEA can be achieved without one partner giving up the life they’ve worked so hard for. Thankfully however, the author comes up with a solution that is both believable and perfectly in character.
If you’re tired of all the ahistorical romances currently flooding the market, His Runaway Marchioness Returns shows that it’s perfectly possible to do ‘unconventional and unusual’ without throwing the history out the window. I’m happy to recommend it.
|Review Date:||March 28, 2023|
|Book Type:||Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||divorce | Harlequin Historical | Marriage of convenience | second chance romance|
Kaye is so good at twisting classic HR tropes; love her older Hrs/Hs too. I know I can always expect high quality work from them.
The last few years of historicals have become a lesson in “be careful what you wish for” for me. I always wanted to read stories about diverse radicals and unconventionals who bucked the usual formula; then the genre decided to go all in on fake radical unconventional heroines who read like unholy combinations of standard historical heroines and modern Twitter activists and make no sense as people and somehow cling to the standard formula only…worse.
This, on the other hand, sounds exactly like what I actually want to read, even with the titled characters, and I’ve liked some of the author’s work in the past, so I will definitely check it out. Thanks for bringing attention to it!
We had a LONG and intense conversation about this topic on an old review of mine: https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/my-fake-rake-by-eva-leigh/
You might enjoy Susanna Fraser’s Freedom to Love, which I recently reviewed and think handled an unconventional relationship (interracial relationship, cross-class relationship) very accurately.
Superbly put, and I couldn’t agree more. Like you, I’m eager to read about the trailblazers – of which there were plenty – but they weren’t all “look at me, see how unconventional I am!!” or to be found running taverns/gaming hells/homes for fallen women (although the latter did undoubtedly happen.)
The characters in this book, however, do have the ring of truth about them. If you do pick it up, come back and let me know how you got on :)