Love With the Proper Husband
Grade : A-

The last time I reviewed a book by Victoria Alexander, my editor was surprised that I gave it only a B+, because I obviously loved the book. I think my subconscious knew that there was even better to come, because I’m delighted to report that Alexander’s latest, Love with the Proper Husband, is one to throw in the lifeboat to the Desert Isle along with the rations and life preservers.

<!– var browName = navigator.appName; var SiteID = 1; var ZoneID = 4; var browDateTime = (new Date()).getTime(); if (browName=='Netscape') { document.write('‘); document.write(”); } if (browName!=’Netscape’) { document.write(‘‘); document.write(”); } // –>

A mere three months before his thirtieth birthday, Marcus Holcroft, the Earl of Pennington, makes a disturbing discovery: his late father has made arrangements for him to marry Gwendolyn Townsend or risk losing his fortune. Marcus isn’t thrilled to say the least, but since he has a host of charitable obligations and his loving but somewhat overbearing mother to take care of, he figures he has no choice. And after he meets his intended, Marcus finds himself actually looking forward to the prospect – Gwendolyn’s everything he’s dreamed of. The only problem is, Gwendolyn has no intention of marrying Marcus, or anyone else for that matter.

Gwendolyn had no brothers, and after her father’s death, a distant cousin took over the Townsend estate. Rather than become a poor relation, she ran off to America to be a governess. Gwen was only sixteen and a dismal failure as a governess, but has just learned that her father did settle an estate on her. After seeing how things turned out for her mother and sister, Gwen wants nothing to do with love and marriage, and she doesn’t particularly care for children either. So as handsome and charming as Marcus is, she wants nothing to do with him. Until, that is, she discovers she’s inherited something else: three young nieces.

While Gwen’s initial meeting with Charity, Hope, and Patience, the orphaned daughters of her long-lost sister, doesn’t go well for anyone, Gwen can’t abide the thought of the three girls growing up unwanted, so she agrees to take them in. Of course, the cash required for Seasons and dowries means she’ll have to accept Marcus’ proposal, but she doesn’t want to tell him about the girls; she fears he’s yet another man who doesn’t want daughters.

Part of the charm of Love with the Proper Husband is that although not a whole lot happens – no suspense subplot, no secondary romances – the book still manages to be engaging even when the plot is laid-back. The plot’s mostly there to give Gwen and Marcus a chance to bounce zingers off each other, which they do with aplomb. At times the book reads almost like Regency-era Chick Lit, which I do mean as a compliment. The dialogue sparkles.

Gwen’s a terrific heroine. She’s smart, independent, and refreshingly flawed, and she has a quality that’s in short supply among romance heroines: she’s delightfully snarky, and totally willing to tell off her lawyer, his hapless assistant, or Marcus if he deserves it. As for Marcus, the fact that he’s believable at all is a testament to Alexander’s skill as a writer, because he’s nearly perfect – witty, kind, sexy, and just plain nice, as Gwen notes early on. How many romance heroes have you read who were described as nice?

The supporting characters are just as charming. Even if you’re not a big fan of kids in romances, Gwen’s nieces are likable: sometimes bratty, sometimes vulnerable, but never taking over the story. And Marcus’ best friend Reggie is adorable; he’s a hopeless romantic with a weakness for damsels in distress. Some of the best scenes in the book involve Marcus and Reggie’s attempts to figure out what it is that women want.

Though the book sounds – and is – very light, I found myself surprisingly involved with the characters. In the scene where the other shoe drops, as it inevitably does in romance, I was holding my breath. But another delight is the characters’ ability to believe in each other; I would classify this book as Not Your Usual Conflict, a rare plot, and one of my favorites.

If there’s a flaw to the book, it comes near the end, when Gwen makes a rather foolhardy decision. But I couldn’t mind too much, because I was too thoroughly in love with this book. Though Victoria Alexander is one of Avon’s lead authors, I don’t hear her mentioned very often; I’m hoping this book will bring her the audience she deserves. If you like funny romances, do yourself a favor and try Love with the Proper Husband.

Reviewed by Kelly Parker

Grade: A-

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : April 11, 2003

Publication Date: 2003

Review Tags: governess

Recent Comments …

  1. Personal impression is subjective. What works for one person doesn’t always work for others, as we all know. However, when…

  2. I appreciate your comments, I find their tone completely in line with the tone of the review itself, not an…

Kelly Parker

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments