When the Marquess Met His Match
I’ve read many historical romances featuring either a social climber or a fortune hunter. Usually these characters are paired with their opposite; the social climber falls in love with someone from the nobility, the fortune hunter pursues someone of wealth. In Laura Lee Guhrke’s When the Marquess Met His Match, the lovers are a social climber and a fortune hunter.
The social climber is Lady Belinda Featherstone. Belinda, years ago, married an Earl with whom she was madly in love. He was not and made it clear he married her for her piles of American money. When he died, five years ago — he had a heart attack while in bed with his current mistress — he’d spent every last cent of her dowry. Since then Belinda has made a career for herself as the premier matchmaker for the ton. She’s very good at her job and is passionate other young women not experience the heartbreak her ruinous marriage brought her. That, however, is all she allows herself to be passionate about.
Nicholas, Marquess of Trubridge, is in desperate need of funds. His control freak of the father, the cold and arrogant Duke of Landsdowne, has cut off his allowance and will only reinstate his income if Nicholas marries a woman of his father’s choosing. Nicholas and his father loathe each other. The former has spent his entire adult life acting in ways he knows will infuriate the latter. Now thirty and accustomed to years of independence, Nicholas has no intention of doing his father’s bidding. If Nicholas is going to marry — which is the only way he can see to maintain his lifestyle — he’ll marry on his own terms.
Thus, he seeks out Belinda and asks her to find him a wife. She initially refuses to help him. She sees him as a feckless rake who will do nothing but break the heart of any young woman he weds. Nicholas maneuvers her into helping him despite her low opinion. For his part, from the moment he steps into her parlor, he is drawn to her. She’d be the perfect wife for him: A woman he wants to bed whose nationality and class would infuriate his father, if only she were wealthy.
I enjoyed When the Marquess Met His Match. Ms. Guhrke writes her opposites attract tale well and believably. Nicholas isn’t the contemptible character Belinda believes him to be but he is careless and easily irresponsible. For him to become a man worthy of his own and Belinda’s respect he must reshape his life into one with purpose. Belinda too must change. She must become vulnerable and able to risk love. Ms. Guhrke lets both of them evolve at a pace and in a way that seems viable.
The romance between Nicholas and Belinda is less convincing. They suffer from insta–lust and move too quickly into passionate kisses and waves of unfulfilled desire. This sexual focus is more believable for Nicholas who has had many a lover. It works less well for Belinda who has only ever made love with her husband, an experience she found uninspiring. However, Ms. Guhrke writes such witty banter and such sultry love scenes that this flaw is easy to ignore.
This is a book focused on its two protagonists. There are few secondary characters of note — only the Duke of Landsdowne and Belinda’s unconventionally married friend, the Duchess of Margrave, stand out. The novel is at its best in its first and last thirds; the middle third seems unnecessarily long.
Though When the Marquess Met His Match won’t replace Guilty Pleasures as my favorite of Ms. Guhrke’s works, it is an engaging addition to her canon.