No Marriage of Convenience
Elizabeth Boyle’s newest release, No Marriage of Convenience, is a fun adventure that grabbed my attention with the prologue and kept it throughout the book. Fans of historical romps and strong heroines will want to check this one out.
Upon his scandalous brother’s death in a boating accident, Mason St. Clair was pulled away from his duties as a dean at Oxford to become the new Earl of Ashlin. Sensible, studious Mason is aghast to discover his brother left behind a barrelful of debts and three hoydenish daughters that Mason despairs of ever marrying off. Mason feels that the only way he can restore his family to its former grandeur is by marrying the brainless but wealthy Cit, Miss Pindar. But then a beautiful stranger bursts into his study and Mason begins thinking like his bawdy brother for the first time in his life.
Mysterious, infamous actress Riley Fontaine is floored to discover that her theater’s patron, the Earl of Ashlin, has died, and the new Earl is eager to collect on the debt the theater owes him. Although he knows she’s a common actress, he admires her considerable charm, which is a quality his nieces are sadly lacking. To stall the Earl until her new play opens, Riley agrees to tutor his three horrible nieces into passable young ladies suitable for the Marriage Mart. Mason and Riley feel an instant attraction despite their different stations in life and, of course, become involved with each other. When Mason discovers that someone is making attempts on Riley’s life, he demands that she move into the house and pretend to be his cousin so he can protect her from the assassin. Naturally, society is abuzz over the young “cousin” Riley St. Clair. Amidst all this intrigue, Mason and Riley must decide what they really want from each other.
I found Riley (yes, there’s a reason for her unusual name) to be a compelling and likable heroine. A talented actress, Riley is aware of her looks and reputation and is not above playing on both to survive, but she is hardworking and talented. Mason is surprised to discover that Riley writes her own plays, and some of my favorite scenes had the two writing scenes together. Of course Riley is more innocent than her reputation indicates, but she’s very matter-of-fact about it, and knows enough to shut up and enjoy a good kiss. Her loyalty to her theatrical company is also touching. Some may find some of Riley’s actions near the end of the book foolhardy, but I felt they were in keeping with her stubborn character.
Mason is a fish-out-of-water in his rakish family, and feels duty-bound to turn the family’s fortunes. It can be difficult to warm up to heroes who marry for money, but I sympathized with Mason’s sense of obligation. Mason learns from Riley’s industrious example and comes up with a delightful solution to his problem; when he tells Riley how she inspired him, I had to smile.
This book just missed being a Desert Isle Keeper due to a lack of development in the supporting characters. In a book of this length, there just wasn’t time to explore the many supporting characters, and I was disappointed not to learn more about Mason’s nieces and the theatrical company. But No Marriage of Convenience features fast-moving story, likable leads, and a tidy ending – a great way to pass a fall evening. I suspect we’ll be hearing great things from Elizabeth Boyle, who jumped from Dell into Avon’s Romantic Treasures line with the release of this book.