Marriage a la Mode
Halfway through this book, I rechecked the publication date. No, this book was not written around 1980. Or maybe it was, and spent the next fifteen years in a desk drawer. It certainly reads like it was.
This is the story of two pointless marriages, almost mirror images of each other. One is an utter failure, the other a success that will live on happily ever after. Or at least the author wants us to believe that. Personally, I beg to reserve my judgment.
The celebrated hostess, Lady Polstead, has many gentlemen courting her, including the most eligible Lord Carisbrooke. When she refuses to elope with him, he retaliates by pressing her dowdy cousin Belle into marrying him. His intent is to set up Belle as a society hostess to outshine Lady Polstead, and thus gain his revenge. Belle is equal to the task he has set her, and eventually she and her husband profess their love for one another.
Doesn’t seem like much of a plot, does it? If the plot does not drive a book, then conflict might be made to spring from the interaction between the hero and heroine. But that is not the case in Marriage A La Mode, either. Carisbrooke addresses Belle patronizingly as girl, and while she takes umbrage at this at first, the moment she is presented with a new carriage or jewels, she forgets all about the affront. From the very beginning, she is bothered by feelings of love for this fine gentleman whom she does not know. The fact that he kidnaps her and forces her into marriage apparently doesn’t bother her much.
I mentioned mirror image marriages. Kitty, Lady Polstead, marries her wealthy and doting husband, and achieves a much-envied position in society. She is courted by a number of beaus, and has received the offer of elopement. Her husband shouts at her, on one occasion he slaps her, after which he offers her expensive jewelry to make it up to her.
Belle, Lady Carisbrooke, marries her wealthy and doting husband, and achieves a much-envied position in society. She is courted by a number of beaus and receives an offer to elope. Her husband manipulates her to fit the role he has planned for her, and when she’s in a snit, offers her expensive presents to make it up to her. To me, the fact that he, on the last few pages, claims to love her, is irrelevant. I strongly fear that if we were to look in on the Carisbrookes a few years down the road, we would see a marriage devoid of emotion.
The one saving grace was the consistently petty behavior of Lady Polstead, which caused a few smiles. Belle and Carisbrooke’s marriage may be a la mode, but I’m unfashionable enough to prefer honesty and real emotions in a relationship. There are plenty of Regency romps around. You will not miss a thing by steering clear of this one.