Desert Isle Keeper
Marriage or Ruin for the Heiress
Lauri Robinson’s Marriage or Ruin for the Heiress is the first in her new miniseries The Osterlund Saga. This book is set in Chicago during the Great Depression and features a hero and heroine who are both determined never to fall in love. This is a delightful and easy read, with the tiniest bit of angst.
Jolie Cramer’s family has been left destitute by the market crash and her father’s subsequent death. Jolie’s mother is determined to keep up appearances and pretend the family is not poor, but Jolie knows they are running short on time as the taxes on their home are due and they do not have the money to pay them. Still, when her mother suggests she marry to save them, Jolie is hesitant, especially when her mother all but demands she marry Randal Osterlund, an acquaintance who had more diversified investments and was able to retain most of his wealth. Neither wants to fall in love. Jolie watched her mother fall apart and barely continue to live after the death of Jolie’s father; the death of Randal’s mother caused his father to become a bitter and hateful man. His grandfather and father also both valued money above all else, from them Randal learned that even his best would never be good enough and that he must increase the family’s wealth in order to be successful. Neither Jolie nor Randal wants to give anyone power over their lives by giving up their hearts and they both believe the key to preventing this is to never love anyone.
While Jolie will receive the funds needed to pay the taxes on her family’s home, Randal wishes to marry her because he’s interested in purchasing her godfather’s airplane-manufacturing business. To do so, Jolie’s godfather, whom she calls Dad, hints strongly to Randal that he will only sell to a married man. Randal proposes to Jolie, and she eventually accepts. They are married soon after and participate in a “bride chase”, where Randal’s friends attempt to steal Jolie away from Randal before they can reach their honeymoon suite. They are unsuccessful and the newlyweds begin getting to know one another.
With Randal at work every day, Jolie wishes for something to do with her time. Having learned to design and sew clothes out of necessity before discovering a love for it, she starts making bras for society ladies after she makes one for the wife of one of Randal’s friends after the woman mentions how uncomfortable her bra is during her pregnancy. Before she knows it, Jolie almost has more orders from society ladies than she can handle.
Meanwhile, Dad explains to Randal that he means to give Jolie his business and Randal realizes Jolie never needed to marry him after all. As he struggles to find a way to tell her (Dad swore him to secrecy), Jolie runs into her childhood nemesis and Randal’s ex-girlfriend, Amy, who intimates that Randal is still in love with her and only married Jolie out of pity. This is behind the main fight the couple must work through at the end to reach their happily ever after.
I really loved this book. I normally read historical romances set in the 1800s featuring a Lord or Lady as at least one main character. And while I love them, it’s occasionally nice to get out of the ballrooms and read about more ‘ordinary’ people. Randal’s family has money, of course, but he isn’t a Lord and has an actual job he goes to every day. Despite his rather harsh father, Randal grows up to be a kind man who treats those around him well. His growth from a man who believes love is destructive and who cares only about making more money to a husband who can’t help but fall in love with his wife was a delight to read.
Jolie, however, is the true star of this story. She goes from being a girl living a life of ease with relatively well-off parents, to a young woman doing her best to keep her family fed, to a woman sacrificed into marriage. She has the audacity (!) to suggest her family members get jobs to keep themselves afloat before her mother tells her she must marry Randal. After the wedding, rather than accept her fate is just sitting around with nothing to do, she begins creating clothes for herself and Randal, eventually starting a business making bras and other underthings. I loved that Jolie doesn’t let circumstances somewhat beyond her control (Randal wasn’t going to hold her to the engagement unless she agreed to the match) stop her from being her own person. She manages to keep her independence while learning how to be a wife, and I loved reading about her as she did so.
I was concerned when I first read the blurb that since the book is set during the Great Depression, it would end up being rather full of angst. Happily, Robinson does an excellent job of portraying the seriousness of those times without dragging everything down. Of course, it helps that Randal has money, but Jolie’s family’s situation is very precarious, even after the marriage, because her mother spends her monthly allowance with remarkable speed. My one and only complaint (and this is probably more of a personal preference than anything) is Dad’s insistence on calling Jolie “Joey-girl” every time he talks to her or about her. It grated on my nerves but didn’t detract from my enjoyment.
With an interesting setting in time, a hero and a heroine who don’t believe in love but might not have another choice, and little angst despite those two things, Marriage or Ruin for the Heiress is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I will definitely be reading more from this author.