Mastering the Marquess by Vanessa Kelly 324
Meredith Brunley has consigned herself to the idea that she will spend her life as a spinster and spends her time taking care of her younger half-sister Annabel. When their father dies Annabel's guardian is their uncle Isaac who tells Meredith that if she does not marry his son, Jacob, he will have Annabel committed to an asylum. Horrified at the possibility Meredith fleas with her sister to the home of Annabel's mother's parents- who disowned her when she ran off to marry the son of a factory owner (Annabel and Meredith's father). While the grandmother is more than happy to meet Annabel and plans to launch both young women out into society, General Stanton is not so sure. Lady Stanton decides that the best way to keep Annabel out of the hands of her uncle is to have her marry her own nephew, Stephen, the Marquess of Silverton. Stephen is more than willing to help launch his new found distant relatives out into society and try to keep the rest of the ton from being too harsh, but it is not the young Annabel he has his eyes on- it is Meredith.
Unfortunately the rest of society is not as forgiving as Annabel's family and it is quickly obvious that very few members of the ton are willing to let them forget their mother's disgrace or their father's lowly origins in trade. Silverton is not at all pleased when his mother refuses to come to the aid of his cousin and the woman he is fast becoming convinced he should marry. Meredith is wary of the attraction she feels towards Stephen because she knows that the gulf between their stations is too much to bridge and she can't help but wonder if Stephen is merely toying with her. Every time the two of them start to get close she pulls away, fearful that she will come to love him and he will break her out. Instead she wants to concentrate on finding a husband for her sister so Anabel can be safe from her uncle and cousin. This is not too hard as another distant cousin, Robert, is infatuated with the beautiful young woman and she returns his feelings. Just as Stephen manages to convince Meredith that they can have a future together Uncle Isaac and Jacob come and try to use force to gain Anabel's fortune by marrying Meredith. It is up to Stephen to come to her rescue and show her that they will have a happy future.
I initially liked Meredith because of her willingness to really take action and place herself at risk to escape a horrible marriage and to save her sister. Plenty of heroines run away for the former, but I have never read about any of them taking a sister along. For a while I was a tad frustrated over how protective she was of her sister and how she really was willing to sacrifice Stephen to save Annabel. Luckily this self sacrifice charade does not continue on for very long and I especially liked it when Annabel came flat out and told Meredith that she appreciates the effort but that she can and should decide her own life. But even once this was cleared up there was the issue of Meredith having so many issues surrounding her rank in society and not being worthy of Silverton. The two of them talked about it several times, and even though she seemed to be convinced she would always change her mind. Even though it is apparently a woman's prerogative to do this, it got annoying VERY quickly. But she was quite likable and at least her motives were somewhat explained.
Stephen was even more interesting and quite the alpha hero- I especially liked that he had a disapproving mother and wasn't scared to tell her what was what. I liked that the mother was a "villain" but she wasn't pure evil. The sex was so- so and I definitely would have preferred more of it between these two very physically attracted to each other characters. Also I felt it would have moved things along a little quicker as far as her reluctance to get married. The plot involving the kidnapping and needing Annabel's inheritance was very well done. It was integrated throughout the story, it was not overwhelming and the romance still shown through, and it was an integral part of the story as it served as the impetuous for the move to the Stanton's. I liked that cousin Jacob was an awful person but had not always been so and had in fact been friends with Meredith at one point. The book also sets up a sequel involving Robert's sister and a friend of Stephen's that I really can't wait to read as the two characters seem very well suited for each other.
Rating: I was bored for most of this book and it took a while to read. I am writing this review about five days after reading it and I already cannot remember very much of it.