The Marriage List
Another day…another Regency. In a multitude of ways, The Marriage List is just like many other romances. For instance, it features the stereotypical older, evil villain who has his eye on the sweet and unappreciated heroine in need of being saved. And though the story is familiar, there are glimpses of depth to be found in McFalls’ debut.
Radford, the Viscount Evers, returns from war a hero bearing a horrible injury that has left him slightly crippled, with a terrible leg wound and a bad attitude toward life. Yet, as dreadful as everything seems to be, there are still commitments that one must endure, such as continuing the family line, which would also get his annoying mother off of his back. So, with the help of his friend Lord Nathan Wynter, Radford decides to make a list of the qualities he is looking for in a wife. For instance, his wife should understand his love of horses, should look like an angel, be pliable, and have a gentle disposition. As long as he sticks to his list, he should be able to find the perfect wife and make the ideal marriage. But Radford did not count on meeting the fearless and exasperating May Sheffers.
May visits the Viscount because it is her last chance to save her home. With her parents missing, May is stuck with her elderly aunt in a homey cottage, living on little money. If they do not come up with the rent, they will be thrown out onto the streets. As May sees it, she has two chances: Either talk her uncle into loosening his purse strings and allowing her the inheritance she deserves, or talk Radford into letting her continue to occupy his cottage until she can come up with the money to pay the rent. She is barely surprised when she finds out that Radford is an unfeeling cad who couldn’t care less if she is destitute. But what does shock her is when she realizes how attracted she is to the man. Fortunately, she does not have to worry about her unsuitable attraction, for she plans on never seeing him again.
May is by no means Radford’s idea of a fitting wife. She is obstinate, opinionated, and her father is of questionable background. She would be shunned by not only polite society but also by Radford’s own family. And yet there is something he just can’t quite put his finger on that draws him to her. In fact, Radford cannot seem to stop thinking about her. And fate, it seems, has a sick sense of humor, for May keeps ending up in his path. May knows that she can never have Radford, for not only is she an inappropriate wife, but her despicable uncle plans on marrying her to another, a man who is old enough to be her father and looks at her like a piece of meat. There is nothing more than May wants than be with Radford, but she has no other choice but to marry a man she despises, for if she doesn’t her aunt just may be the one to suffer.
Although The Marriage List has moments of charm, its subplots are predictable subplots, the villains formulaic, and even likable characters are incredibly familiar. The hero in particular is not only clichéd but also a flat and one-dimensional. What’s worse, the book’s suspenseful moments were overly dramatic, to the point where it induced eye-rolling in this reader. In particular, scenes with May and her uncle, along with the surprise twist involving her aunt and May’s intended were not only unsurprising – they were silly. And because of the length of the traditional Regency, there was little to no downtime between dramatic events, resulting in drama that was more theatrically melodramatic than not.
Even though there were obvious problems with the lack of originality and overly dramatic scenes, there were times when the author sucked me in with her descriptive passages and depth of emotion. One memorable scene is when May ends up at Radford’s home with a group of friends. The feelings of inadequacy she experiences, the way she sort of melts into the background, jumped right off the page. I could not help but feel for May. I think with a bit more substance and more descriptive scenes like the one, McFalls could write a much better book. I’ll definitely be interested to see where the author goes from here.