How to Best a Marquess
Grade : C

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.

Reviewed by Charlotte Elliott
Grade : C

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : May 11, 2023

Publication Date: 04/2023

Recent Comments …

  1. What kept me reading was the sheer unpredictability of the storyline. I knew David’s and Chelsea’s paths would cross again…

Charlotte Elliott

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!").
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