How to Best a Marquess
There’s nothing particularly bad about Janna MacGregor’s How to Best a Marquess – except for the fact that it isn’t particularly good.
Blythe – Beth – Howell, who went from being an eligible heiress to the wife (or at least one-third of one) of a trigamist who “drowned in a mud puddle”, wants to hit the road. Trapped in social infamy, she’s resolved to find her lost dowry. For support on this journey she turns to her first love, Julian Raleah, Marquess of Grayson. Julian is a working aristocrat – he applies his physics studies to the creation of steam engines – and is so broke he wears only black so no one notices he’s always in the same clothes. He needs funds for his projects and Beth offers half her dowry if they can find it. Away they go.
The title How to Best a Marquess is somewhat misleading. It’s a title with a lot of verve, suggesting competition and clashing protagonists. It would really have better been titled How to Nurture an Heiress. I mentally labeled Julian The Pinterest Marquess, because he’s so full of kind words, tender gestures, and can put on a marriage proposal involving “wading pools blazing with floating candles” that feels ripped straight from a Pinterest board named Romantic Daydreams.
The writing is a real weak point. Sentences range from so forgettable they leave less of an impression than a cat on a sofa cushion (at least the cat leaves a few hairs behind) to so awkwardly sentimental or obvious that they bring on the same shudder one has at the sound of a squeaky hinge. A prime example is Julian’s reflections on Beth’s “magnificent blue orbs” that “You could drown in . . . and never want to be rescued”. One hopes his steam engine ideas are more original or the man will never obtain a patent. The secondary characters are either wasted (a pig farmer named Monday surely deserves more page time) or fail miserably at being charming (see Julian’s BFF/valet). The book’s saving grace is the chemistry between Beth and Julian, which proves that it is, in fact, possible to make a fire from damp kindling. It’s sexy, even when Beth describes an orgasm as “Like a thousand glowworms were lit up inside me and proclaiming to the world they were alive and looking for their mates.”
The book is like a sailboat on a nearly windless sea. Without the propulsion of bantering dialogue or clever writing, it just drifts pleasantly, in the general direction of the destination. The story might make much of Julian’s tech innovations, but none of the potent energy of the Industrial Age is present in How to Best a Marquess.
Part-time cowgirl, part-time city girl. Always working on converting all my friends into romance readers ("Charlotte, that was the raunchiest thing I have ever read!").
|Review Date:||May 11, 2023|
|Book Type:||Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||The Widow Rules series|
I guess this is what many readers want, sort of comfort food in print.
I was similarly dismayed by the first book in this series. MacGreggor’s sometimes got good writing bones but her plots are so tortured and over the top that it’s impossible to really get into them most of the time.
Like a thousand glowworms were lit up inside me and proclaiming to the world they were alive and looking for their mates.”
Oh Good Lord!
That description made me think of internal worms all right. Unfortunately they were not the glowing kind.
Did you see last night’s Chicago Med too?
This is where a good editor earns her pay. If Beth had said “Like a thousand glowworms were lit up inside me” and stopped there, it might have worked as a pretty simile. I’d also change glowworms to fireflies because the latter don’t have the association with intestinal worms, but I don’t know if there are fireflies in the UK. Where I live they are a lovely part of early summer – used to be at their peak around the July 4th holiday, but climate change has reduced their numbers and they appear weeks earlier.
Yep, it’s something that could be cut into something reasonably lovely. And yet no!
Was she married three times or married to three people at once?
I think she was married to a man who had also “married” two other women.
I know not one but two people whose father had a secret whole other family. It always seems so improbable to me but it clearly happens.
True. Usually, the existence of another wife comes to light with the husband’s death (in Indian cases)
I was similarly confused by the outlandishness of the first book in this series. As Caz notes, she was married to a guy who married two other women besides her.
That wouldn’t be ideal…. ;)
All for their money so he could fill in his gambling debts, and at least one of the marriages was faked.
Sigh. I reviewed this author’s debut and gave it a similar grade. She’s published over a dozen books since then – you’d think there should have been some improvement. From what I remember of that first book, it was one of those “not good, not terrible, just ‘there'”books, too.
That’s really how her books feel, too. It’s a shame, there’s something there that could be kindled.
I enjoyed this review, especially the snappy summing-up of what the reading experience was like. So I tried the excerpt, and it was just the same for me – nothing really off-putting, but nothing really good either. As well as magnificent blue orbs, Beth has the requisite heart-shaped face, and the butler’s over-familiar manner was just odd. Maybe that’s explained later, but the book didn’t hook me enough to make me want to find out.