The Notorious Marriage
The Notorious Marriage by Nicola Cornick is a Big Misunderstanding/Big Secret story. If the hero and heroine had talked to each other at the appropriate, natural time, this book would have been under 60 pages long. So of course they couldn’t do that.
Eleanor Trevithick and Kit Mostyn are attracted to one another in spite of the family feud that keeps them apart. Then Eleanor’s greedy Mama forces her to accept the proposal of a man she finds odious. Eleanor throws herself on Kit’s mercy, and the two elope. But Kit is doing some kind of work for the government, and he is whisked away without a word on the very morning of their marriage. He is gone for six months.
Eleanor has absolutely no word from her husband for that entire six months, and at first she believes him dead – until rumors start circulating about Kit cavorting in Italy, in the company of other women. Gossips have a field day with their hasty marriage and sudden estrangement. It is widely believed that Kit left because he discovered, on the wedding day, that Eleanor was not a virgin. A number of predatory males have come sniffing around Eleanor, and when Kit returns she is having a difficult time getting rid of one of them.
And so, under 50 pages into the book, we have Kit flying into a totally unjustified jealous rage, rather than explaining his absence. When he does decide to explain, we have Eleanor refusing to listen to him and insisting upon a marriage of convenience in which they go their separate ways. I’m sure you can pretty much predict what happens during the rest of the 250 pages. One other thing: something bad happened to Eleanor while Kit was gone. I understood her reluctance to talk about it with Kit at first. But she persists in keeping this secret, and demanding an annullment because of this secret, for a ridiculously long time. Not only is this Big Secret incredibly frustrating, but my understanding is that by this time there were no grounds for an annullment, giving the entire crisis a manufactured feel.
It is impossible to care about characters when they exist in such a contrived situation. Eleanor is very, very young, and she acts it. She’s constantly blushing and stammering. She eavesdrops on Kit and when she gets caught pretends she was doing something else, while blushing and stammering. Kit finds this charming and erotic, which made him hard for me to understand as well. There are several secondary characters in this book (two couples who were apparently introduced in Lady Allerton’s Wager) who get a subplot of their own; I honestly didn’t care about any of that, either.
Another thing that irritated me is that the book’s dialogue, especially Eleanor’s, is peppered with exclamation points. On page 17 she says, “I see that I misunderstood you! I will leave now! There is no need to say any more!” I imagined this coming out in a sustained shriek. This might seem like a quibble to some, but all the exclamation points made Eleanor seem like she was about to succumb to hysterics at any moment. Also, the characters utter some jarringly modern turns of phrase, and I never quite figured out what Kit’s title is. Apparently he has one, but that’s all I can tell you.
The Notorious Marriage does contain a few nice moments and some amusing dialogue. It wasn’t horrid, but I found it very disappointing. I had hoped it would be the sort of story in which the hero and heroine work together to restore their marriage. I was sorry to discover that, instead, it just cobbles together some of my least favorite plot contrivances. Unless you’re a big Cornick fan, I don’t recommend it.