The Earl's Marriage Bargain
I’ve never read Louise Allen before and was excited to jump into her latest novel, The Earl’s Marriage Bargain, whose blurb mentions a daring rescue. I was therefore looking forward to a more adventurous tale than I found myself reading, and unfortunately, came away disappointed.
After being disgraced, Jane Newnham is traveling to her cousin’s house with her mother’s loathsome maid. and when a fight involving several men suddenly breaks out into the street, Jane impulsively drags the man who is losing the fight into her carriage. The man isn’t just anyone, however, but Ivo Merton, Earl of Kendall and heir to a marquess. He has just returned from the war and is crushed to find out the woman he loves didn’t wait for him.
Jane handily leaves her mother’s maid at an inn and she and Ivo continue on to Batheaston together. Along the way, Jane tells Ivo of her plan to set up a shop painting portraits for the wealthy, while Ivo tries to convince her what a terrible idea that truly is.
They reach Batheaston and part ways very briefly after Jane convinces Ivo to take her through town to find a suitable shop for her portraiture endeavor. Her dream is quickly abandoned, however, when she learns how high rent is and that her jewelry is all paste. But that’s okay because she and Ivo are caught in a situation where they lie about being betrothed and The Earl’s Marriage Bargain is made.
I was hooked by the story until Jane and Ivo reached Batheaston and then very little happened. I honestly expected a title featuring a heroine pulling the hero into her carriage while fighting off his attackers with her parasol to be more plot driven and more exciting, but after that, it was as if all the action just came to a complete stop. The dialogue was still witty and fun, but I wanted more than that; I wanted things to happen. I wanted conflict.
Ivo is annoyed with Jane at first and inexplicably wants to make her understand her studio idea is a bad one, but that argument is solved by Jane realizing the studio was unattainable right then anyway. Once they decide to marry, most of the arguments between them cease and their interactions aren’t as delightful.
I liked Jane and felt I got to know her far better than I did Ivo. Although she did get a little aggravating with her idealistic belief that she could open a portrait studio without causing any scandal – she was far too smart to not realize how unlikely that was. I respected her for not refusing his proposal out of pure stubbornness like many heroines do.
While The Earl’s Marriage Bargain started promisingly enough, it soon fizzled out and left me wanting more.