The Truth Behind Their Practical Marriage
This is the third Marguerite Kaye book I’ve read in 2019 and, once again, I am impressed by her mastery of story-telling. Ms. Kaye captivates her readers from the first few pages and keeps the spell going throughout the novel. In The Truth Behind Their Practical Marriage, we begin in Florence, with Estelle Brannagh and Aidan Malahide meeting eyes across the Piazza della Signoria.
How long had she been staring before their gazes clashed and held, she had no idea. Her insides jolted. It was not recognition, for they most certainly had not met before, but an urging, as if it was imperative that they should meet. He didn’t stare openly in those attenuated moments. She had the impression of being subject to a cool assessment, then surprise was registered in the slight raising of his brow, before he turned away as if shielding himself from view, resenting the intrusion on his thoughts.
Yes, I was hooked. Estelle and Aidan continue to trade glances until a few days later when they bump into each other. They strike up a conversation and end up spending the day together – Estelle enjoying the social freedom of being in Italy and not England, and they delight in each other’s company so much that they begin to share their days together. What follows is an idyllic few weeks in Florence – food, wine, art, sunshine. Estelle shares much of her history with Aidan but he shares considerably less, she trying to find her real purpose and make a plan for her future during her travels, he clearly running away from something.
When he was with Estelle, the world was a golden palace, with no past and no future to tarnish it. They talked of everything and nothing. Like him, she seemed content to forget the real world and to wallow in this one. There were still moments when unbidden memories caught him unawares, when he was reminded of the terrible burden he carried, but in Estelle’s company, those were quickly banished, and if she noticed them – he knew she did – she made no comment.
They both know that their interlude will have to come to an end soon, despite some passionate kisses, as neither is looking for a spouse right now. Estelle is jaded from watching her parents’ tumultuous marriage where passion and hate trades places almost daily. If not for her desire to have children, she would never marry, and certainly never for love. Aidan finally shares the tragedy of his first marriage, although not the whole story. Estelle and Aidan are clearly falling for each other but both are unwilling to contemplate that. Instead, Aidan makes a bold suggestion – might they be “the perfect solution to each other’s problems?” He proposes they marry, but leave passion and love off the table, choosing to adopt children and have a platonic relationship instead. Estelle agrees and they leave Italy to start a new life at Aidan’s estate in Ireland.
At this point in the book, I had a hard time believing either character truly wanted this – or that it was even possible. But as Ms. Kaye fills in more of Estelle and Aidan’s backstory, it becomes more clear as to why both parties think this is a good idea, even though their kisses leave them breathless. The relationship Ms. Kaye develops between Estelle and Aidan is so beautiful that the collapse of this relationship when they reach Ireland is heartbreaking.
Both Estelle and Aidan are lovely characters and I ached for all the turmoil they went through – Estelle struggling to see the difference between obsession and love, and Aidan struggling to get past the torment of his first marriage. The Truth Behind Their Convenient Marriage is full of angst and trepidation about what will be revealed next. There is not much action so readers who need a fast-moving story may be disappointed. I, however, enjoyed the slow-burn of the romance and their long internal dialogues. Ms. Kaye does a marvelous job giving just the right amount of insight at the right time to ‘solve’ the mystery of Aidan’s first marriage and to see how Estelle and Aidan might make a future together.
My only quibble, and it’s a small one, was that I was a little bored when Estelle’s sisters came back into the picture. I understand that Ms. Kaye wanted to bring them back as part of the series, but it felt a little forced.
Regardless of that, fans of Ms. Kaye and the Penniless Brides of Convenience series will be happy with The Truth Behind Their Convenient Marriage. I certainly was!