When a Marquess Loves a Woman
If something is satisfactory but not especially good, it is okay. This is true of Vivienne Lorret’s third book in her Season’s Original series, When a Marquess Loves a Woman. It’s well written and pleasant, but the story is neither original nor memorable and can best be described as bland.
When a Marquess Loves a Woman is a second chance romance combined with a Big Misunderstanding – an often-disdained romance trope but applied reasonably well here. Maxwell Harwick and Lady Juliet White are neighbors, family acquaintances and friends. Their friendship developed because they paid attention to each other when no one else in their lives did. Maxwell is serious and quiet, and everyone except Juliet ignores him in favor of his half-brother, Bramson, who is a marquess, enigmatic and considered one the ton’s most eligible bachelors. Juliet is universally admired for her poise and beauty but otherwise disregarded and treated as little more than a pretty object. No one except Max asks Juliet how she is doing or what she thinks – she’s even called the Hollow Goddess.
Max yearns for more than friendship with Juliet, but he doesn’t expect there to ever be more between them, because Juliet has turned her attention to Bram. During the season of 1820, Juliet is the front runner to be the season’s Original and she sees Bram as a potential husband – not because she’s particularly taken with him but rather because she’s enamored with the idea of the season’s Original landing the season’s most sought-after bachelor. She loses both the title and the man to another woman and is devastated.
Max goes to Juliet to console her, and their heightened emotions leads to kissing that leads to their being caught in a scandalous embrace. Max is more than willing to offer her marriage and he assumes without question that she will accept. When he arrives at her home the following morning to propose, he discovers Juliet has eloped with another man – a titled gentleman. Juliet marries and moves to her husband’s country estate and never explains to Max why she suddenly eloped thus creating the big misunderstanding I mentioned earlier. She and Max do not speak for five years, and Max ruminates and stews in his anger.
When Juliet is widowed and returns to London, she’s no longer naïve and concerned with her popularity. She’s disillusioned and pessimistic because her marriage was loveless and intolerable. Her husband considered her a prize and used her to incite jealousy from his peers, and he cruelly taunted her that she would be nothing without her beauty. Max never married and is now the Marquess of Thayne after inheriting from a distant cousin, and he continues to hold a grudge against Juliet. Their families are still close, and the two are frequently in each other’s presence and continually butt heads. Max can’t hide his vexation with Juliet, and Juliet is irritated by his attitude, which she feels in unjustified. Their antagonism and hurt feelings mask the attraction that was discovered five years ago.
Juliet and Max’s verbal digs and humorous bickering are the most enjoyable part of the story, especially when they exchange little mischievous gifts for the sole purpose of irritating each other. Juliet clears up the misunderstanding surrounding her elopement and Max’s anger slowly dissipates. He wants to marry Juliet, but she’s afraid to be just an ornament again and has no desire to ever take another husband. Max is sweet and patient with her, and they share some truly heartwarming romantic moments.
When a Marquess Loves a Woman’s uninteresting plot is disappointing, because Ms. Lorret has the potential to write an excellent novel. She paints vivid imagery using unusual analogies, and her prose feels almost lyrical. If her talent is used to tell a better story, I suspect her writing will transcend the just acceptable, and this potential is why I will try another of her books. But I can’t really recommend this one.