Peregrine Perriam, son of an earl, has no desire to marry, but when he’s named heir to Perriam Manor, he finds he has only a month to persuade a stranger, Claris Mallow, to the altar or the property will be lost to his family forever, and his line will be cursed.
Having survived her parents’ tormented marriage, Claris prefers poverty to any husband. When a high-born stranger demands her hand, she drives him off at pistol point.
Perry finds weapons of his own, however, and soon Claris is compelled to accept his proposal. But she does so on her own terms—especially that the marriage be in name only. Once mistress of Perriam Manor, however, she discovers she isn’t immune to Perry’s charms. Perhaps a real marriage might be worth the risk—including a real marriage bed.
I’ve often wondered if people back in the 19th century really did write all those interesting and difficult caveats in their wills such as provides the basic tenet of this story — ” . . . marry in a month or your line will be lost forever . . .” — or marry by 35 or you lose your inheritance, so on and so forth. I think we all know that it is historical verifiable that aristocrats resisted marriage until absolutely necessary. Why should they take on the “ole ball and chain” when they were having all the fun? But in this story, it’s a bit more difficult as the hero was not aware that he was inheriting and when he did, he was in a difficult situation.
This is also a kind of fun story in that it is always entertaining to watch two people become friends and then find that they have a basis for a relationship that would carry them well beyond friendship. Claris is a woman who has formed some fairly intractable ideas about marriage based on the disastrous union of her own parents. The last thing she wants is a war zone in which to live. Yet the author carefully allows the readers to understand that Claris is like all of us . . . she wants to be appreciated for who she is and not for any other circumstance. I would appear our hero wants the same thing and even though they are agreed that the marriage is a nominal one, their journey of discovery is the substance of this love story.
Jo Beverley writes uncommonly good historical romance fiction and those of us who have been treated to her stories in the past are always delighted to find a new one. Thankfully she keeps on feeding our appetite for another of her books and this latest one is not disappointment. In fact, it is a delight to read. It is a great love story but like all really good fiction, it takes the reader into the inner workings of the mind and heart of the characters to the degree that one feels like it is a personal experience, one each of us is experiencing with the characters. Claris is certainly a woman of her times but like all of us who prize our independence, she only compromises when she has no other choice. Few of today’s women realize how difficult it was to be an independent woman in the 19th century. It was not a nice time to live if one did not have social standing or sufficient financial means. Perhaps that is what fascinates me so about women of this time period — the creativity they demonstrated in meeting almost impossible circumstances is often mind boggling.
So I recommend this novel to those who love historical 19th century romance fiction and who have been grateful readers of this author’s work. For those for whom this may be their first experience with Jo Beverley, you won’t be disappointed.
I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.