Loving the Marquess
I like trying historical romances by authors new to me, so I picked up Suzanna Medeiros’s Loving a Marquess because in it, the hero believes he’s suffering from a hereditary, terminal illness. Unfortunately this book wasted this potential and turned out to be a mediocre read.
Down-on-her-luck gentlewoman Louisa Evans finds a man collapsed on her doorstep one night, helps him inside to her bed and nurses him. The next morning, Nicholas Manning, Marquess of Overlea, wakes up and can’t remember what happened to him. Nevertheless, when he sees Louisa, he pulls her into his arms, kisses her, and is groping her breasts (as one does) when Louisa comes to her senses and gets him to stop.
To make amends, Nicholas promises to repay her hospitality in any way he can. Then he goes off to his manor house, where his grandmother insists he get married soon. He can choose the lady, but he must have some heir other than his cousin Edward. The problem is that Nicholas’s father and brother both died from a mysterious illness and now Nicholas believes he’s been stricken by it too.
Therefore, he refuses to father a child. I would have liked to see how he reconciled his fear of passing on his unknown disease with his eagerness to tup Louisa before he even knew her name, but no such luck. Moving on, evil Edward is Louisa’s landlord, and when he comes to raise either her rent or her skirts – her choice – Louisa goes to Nicholas for help. He immediately offers her marriage, all the while planning to have another man beget an heir on her.
Whenever I’ve read this setup before, it’s been the other man who gets the hero to father his child, so I was interested to see how this story would twist the trope. Nicholas asks his friend the Earl of Kerrick (clearly the hero of the next book) to do the deed, and then lets Louisa know about the deal. Neither Kerrick nor Louisa are enthused, but because Nicholas won’t touch her, she and Kerrick decide he’ll pretend to seduce her, to make Nicholas jealous. That works well enough. But Nicholas’s episodes of illness are growing frequent, and he fears the end is in sight.
While the idea behind this conflict is intriguing, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The characters are sadly stereotypical. Nicholas likes Louisa because :
She was a breath of fresh air after all the simpering, marriage-minded females of London.
This novel was published in 2013. By now, I hope historical romance heroes are moving beyond the ‘all women except the one I want are frivolous, emptyheaded chits’ attitude.
And Louisa doesn’t come off as any better than the simpering females. She blushes frequently, thinks it’s easy to annul an unconsummated marriage, and doesn’t figure out the truth behind Nicholas’ mysterious disease. Every time she thinks about him, it’s to reflect on how handsome he is, and other than getting him to have sex with her, all she does after their wedding is make a doctor stop leeching him, worry about her brother joining the army, and persuade Nicholas to accept a dinner invitation from his evil cousin (this goes about as well as you’d expect).
Speaking of sex, this was a bit problematic. It’s clear that Nicholas doesn’t remember what he’s doing on occasion. On top of that, the stress of thinking another man is canoodling with his wife makes him turn to drink. So consummating their marriage isn’t something he does because he’s thought about it and truly wants it; instead it’s treated as a weakness he gives in to. And while he and Louisa have a passionate relationship, nothing about the sex scenes really stood out except for this description of Louisa’s breasts:
They were not overly large, but neither were they small.
So basically, she has medium-sized breasts. Good to know. I just wish the story had applied the same type of description to his penis. ‘It did not lean to the left, but neither did it hang to the right.’
Loving a Marquess is the first in Suzanna Medeiros’s Landing a Lord series, but I won’t be trying any of the sequels. I’d rather look for better historical romances than spend time on something that is not overly awful, but neither is it good.