Monday, March 13, 2017

A Marriage of Rogues - Margaret Moore (HH #1317 - Feb 2017)

He made a dangerous wager…and won himself a wife

Gambling hells are Sir Develin Dundrake's forte. Hunting risk, craving victory, he's surprised by nothing. Until the woman whose dowry Develin has claimed in a card game proposes the only solution that will rescue her from ruin: a wedding.

Wicked Develin isn't made for matrimony, but all Lady Theodora Markham demands is a convenient arrangement. He must avoid falling for his wife's sensual charms -- there are secrets hidden behind her beguiling gaze -- yet neither can resist surrendering to the passion their marriage bed promises!

Very good book with an unusual start. Dev is back at his country home after having won a great deal of money in a card game that he regrets playing. The man had been losing steadily and Dev tried everything he could to end the game before finally walking away. He's in his study when he sees a woman walking purposefully toward his house and expects it to be someone soliciting for a charity. He's startled when she appears right outside the doors.

Thea is the daughter of the man Dev won the money from. He has left England for Canada, leaving Thea behind. She no longer has her dowry or any way to support herself. She informs Dev that since he already has the dowry, he may as well take the bride. She explains that marriage to her will save him from the machinations of those trying to trap him into marriage. She will make no demands of him, other than ensuring that she has a home and security. She isn't sure that he'll agree, but she has to try.

I really enjoyed this encounter. Thea is independent, having spent years dealing with the consequences of her father's gambling. She's honest about her expectations. She's more nervous about this that she shows, but comes across quite confident. Dev is a bit taken aback by her forwardness, but feels a bit guilty about his part in her problems. He's still not too certain about agreeing to her proposal, until he kisses her. That kiss has quite an effect on both of them. Dev finds himself agreeing to the marriage. They part ways until the next day. Thea is vastly  relieved, but it isn't long before Dev is having second thoughts. But he's a man of his word and won't back out.

Dev's doubts remain, even during their trip to Gretna Green, but they don't stop him from going through with it. The ceremony and wedding supper have some lighter moments, with the tension building toward their wedding night. He's still thinking of resisting the attraction, afraid that he rushed his way into a mistake. But the attraction is too strong .

Back in Cumbria the next day, there is some awkwardness as they enter married life. Dev is still doubting his wisdom and sends for his solicitor for advice. I had some issues with him, as he was extremely suspicious without even having met Thea. Dev is all too willing to listen to him and tries to distance himself from Thea. Meanwhile, she has gone into the town to order some new clothes and had two very different encounters. One with Lady Gladys, a young woman who is very nice, rather exuberant, and unfortunately klutzy. Thea likes her immediately. The second encounter is with the Duchess of Scane and her daughter Caroline, which doesn't go nearly so well. They are extremely rude to both Thea and Gladys. I loved seeing Thea stand up to them both. When she tells Dev what happened, I was glad to see that he supported her.

Over the next several days, Dev does his best to keep his distance emotionally, without letting on to Thea about what he is considering about their marriage. Thea is confused by his absence from her bed, worried that she has done something wrong. However, they do spend some time together, during which they get to know each other. I rather enjoyed Dev's confusion, as the more he learned about her, the more he believed in her, but he kept reporting bits of information to Roger. Thea fell harder for Dev, and continued to worry about the state of their relationship. There were a few times that their attraction overcame Dev's attempts to stay away, but he would still back away. Things started to get better between them until Roger found out information about Thea's father that worried both him and Dev.

It was quite satisfying to see Dev suffer the way he was. As the book goes on we learn a little bit more about why he falls prey to so many doubts. I ached for him and the effects that his parents' marriage had on him and his belief in the existence of love. I liked seeing his determination to find out the truth about Thea's father himself. The interruption of his search was a surprise, especially the reason for it. I loved his protectiveness, even under the circumstances. I suspected the perpetrator was going to cause more trouble, and he did. The rescue created some problems for him with Thea, and their tempers got the best of both of them. I loved seeing Thea stand up for her opinion and actions, though their later harsh words to each other caused doubt about their feelings on both sides.

Thea's pride and independence cause her to put herself into a dangerous situation and it's only Dev's fortunate arrival that gets her out of it. It was satisfying to see that Dev had finally seen what was most important in their lives and they were able to solve their differences.

I also really enjoyed the secondary characters. Gladys was my favorite with her blunt speech and endearing clumsiness. She was a truly nice person and I would love to see her get her own story. Surely there's some uptight nobleman that needs his life turned upside down? The Scane family was an interesting group. I liked the duke a lot. He treated both Dev and Thea well. His wife was definitely a stuck up witch, who was rude to anyone she felt didn't meet her standards. I started out disliking Caroline because of the way she treated Thea, but felt bad for her later in the book, even though she brought it on herself. I loved seeing how Thea's influence changed her life, and really wanted to see the resolution of her problem. Maybe she'll get her own book too, as there seemed to be some promise in an unexpected relationship. I'm still a little wishy-washy on Roger. I really didn't like how suspicious of Thea he was, especially once he met her. I became a little more understanding as some of his background was revealed. It would be interesting to see what his future holds in store for him.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. There were parts that moved me to tears and others that had me laughing out loud. There were also several times I wanted to shake both Dev and Thea and tell them to talk to each other for heaven's sake! So much could have been avoided if they had shared their fears. I liked the ending with the glimpse into their future.

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