Marigold's Marriages
Grade : D-

“The summer of 1806 was to end uproariously, with among many other things, a talking wren, a demon duck, and ancient druidic magic gone very wrong indeed, but it began on a somber note that gave no hint of the amazing events ahead.”

Thus begins Sandra Heath’s latest unconventional Regency, and despite an intriguing opening sentence, Marigold’s Marriages was a less than amazing read.

We are introduced to Marigold Arnold as she sits amid a hostile group of in-laws to hear the reading of her late husband’s will. After many years of unhappy marriage, Marigold was unexpectedly set free by a robin who darted out of a rowan tree and startled her husband’s horse. Her husband was killed, and now Marigold is anticipating her thirteen year-old son’s inheritance of his father’s title and estate.

Enter Falk, younger brother to the deceased lord, and hated enemy of Marigold. Falk pulls a coup, having replaced his dead brother’s will with a false one in which Marigold’s husband “confesses” to hiring an actor to impersonate a clergyman to perform an illegal marriage, thus enabling him to seduce Marigold. The marriage never took place, and Marigold’s son is therefore illegitimate. Marigold is given hours to collect her things and clear out.

Despairing, Marigold makes her way to an inn to take a night to collect her thoughts as she tries to find a way to break the news to her son. She is nearly run down by a fast-moving curricle, exchanges heated words with the driver, and then makes her way inside to order a hot meal. Her efforts to escape notice by sitting in a dark corner are fruitless, as three rowdy acquaintances of her deceased husband come in and begin to make trouble. Marigold is unexpectedly defended by a man she later recognizes as the driver of the aforementioned curricle, who turns out to be none other than Lord Rowan Avenbury, a noted rake and the acknowledged lover of Marigold’s unpleasant but beautiful (and married) sister-in-law.

At dawn the following morning, Marigold sneaks off to the park to secretly witness the duel which is the result of the previous night’s confrontation between Rowan and the rowdies. Mysterious things are said, stranger things happen, and the duel ends with no one killed. Rowan calls Marigold out of her hiding place, and then proposes marriage. It is to be one of convenience (Marigold’s convenience), but not one in name only, although Rowan assures his intended wife she need only suffer him in her bed for a matter of weeks.

From there the tale grows too complicated to describe without giving away too much. Among other things, we have a robin that continues to follow Marigold; large numbers of characters all named for birds; a duck called Sir Francis who haunts first Marigold’s son and then Marigold; the hero’s mistress, Marigold’s sister-in-law; an ancient druidic curse on the hero; and the list goes on.

Besides having a plot that was downright silly more than it was mystical, this story failed for me because I just couldn’t care about the characters. Part of the trouble lay with the point of view, which was only Marigold’s, although there were frequent lapses into a rather heavy-handed omniscient. I imagine this was meant to increase the mystery, but all it did was add to the melodrama, further distancing the reader from the heroine. For his part, Rowan remained unreadable and cold, and his actions did not help as he seemingly continued to pursue his mistress after being “happily” married to Marigold. I was further put off by the deceitful stunts Marigold and Rowan engaged in, such as Marigold forging a note from Rowan’s mistress to fool Rowan, and both lying to each other about various things.

The author does not, however, neglect to fill the reader in on the fashions of the day. If you like knowing exactly what color, cut, and fabric both the hero and heroine are wearing at any given moment in time, then you are in luck.

The plot is imaginative, but there are many points that are not adequately explained, and others that are just too much to swallow, including the final events that enable Marigold to save the day. Perhaps this tale would make good rainy-day reading, but I think I’d rather go bake cookies.

Reviewed by Mary Ann Lien

Grade: D-

Book Type: Regency Romance

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : March 17, 1999

Publication Date: 1999

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