Desert Isle Keeper
Not Quite a Marriage
Not Quite a Marriage is all about the longing. Two estranged spouses try to work their way back to one another under a rain of misunderstandings and Bennet’s plumy prose ably guides the way, moving this reader utterly in the process.
Philadelphia – Delphie – Burnett has one sanctuary to her name – Beechcombe Park, her absentee husband’s family seat. Within it she plans to house her eccentric and scandalous cadre of female British cousins and continue living her life. Delphie has lost much since she abandoned her family nest for a marriage that did not work, and Beechcombe Park is her last hope of stability. Then her long-since disappeared husband decides to reassert himself in her life, and she immediately decides to go to war for what matters to her.
Spencer Burnett, Viscount Stiles, has made many a mistake in his young life. Chief among them was marrying Delphie at his controlling father’s demand and then storming off to West Africa to give the man the metaphorical bird, abandoning the marriage and disappointing his beloved grandmother with his cavalier behavior. But Spencer’s done a lot of growing up in the five years that have passed, and he decides to return to Beechcombe Park and try to make things right with both Delphie and his family. His bride, toughened by life without him, is no longer the sweet, docile girl he remembers – she will not accept him back into her life or bed, and refuses to believe his excuses. Can they have a real marriage after so much water has passed under their mutual bridge?
Good Lord, is this a fine romance. Not Quite a Marriage is romantic, funny, touching, and extremely well-researched, Spencer and Delphie have a lot of mountains of mistrust to climb.
Bliss Bennet has a wonderfully period-accurate prose style; there’s something almost Austenian about it, and it’s very mature and measured. The research steams up off of every page. Her characters are growing, reasoned adults who are trying to make up for their lousy mistakes and be better people.
Yearning is the name of the game, at least until we get midway through the book. Delphie understandably does not trust Spencer and is furious that he wishes to occupy the home she’s promised her cousins, but cannot ignore the electric chemistry between them. Spencer, meanwhile, has to Grovel Big Time after fucking off to Africa because he was mad about his father trying to control his life. He’s learned a lot, grown a lot, and now he’s going to have to prove it. Eventually the UST is resolved and they figure out how to love each other, but it’s an absorbing trip getting there.
The supporting characters are fun. I loved the set of Audley cousins we meet in the book – all clearly future heroines. And I can’t give higher marks for Bennet’s research. It’s towering, nigh on astoundingly done.
Not Quite a Marriage is a perfect romance, and comes with a high recommendation.