The Wild Marquis by Miranda Neville 425
Juliana Merton is recently widowed and took over the running of her late husband's bookshop, although she has noted a marked decrease in purchases since a woman gained control. She desperately wants in to the auction of Lord Tarleton as it is expected to be quite amazing; and she wants the opportunity to buy back the folio of "Romeo and Juliet" that had once belonged to her mother before being "stolen." Cain, the Marquess of Cain, is just as eager to attend, not for any deep love of books, but because he wants to regain his family's copy of The Hours, which mysteriously disappeared from the collection around the same time Cain's saintly father kicked him out of the family. Cain engages the help of Juliana to aid him at the auction, and it is not long before he realizes he wants quite a bit more from her than help with musty old books. Juliana harbors secrets of her own as her parents were never married and she had been thrown out by her grandfather's heir as soon as he inherited.
Juliana suspects someone has been coming into his her shop and messing around with things but she cannot prove it. She and Cain finally give in to their mutual passion for each other, but Juliana is too proud to be his mistress and she does not think he can give up his philandering ways. When she discovers some inconsistencies in the books for sale at the auction, Chase begins to suspect that Juliana was born legitimately and that someone is desperately trying to cover it. A wrench is thrown into things when Cain's sister shows up in an attempt to get away from their incredibly religious and probably insane mother who wants to marry her off to a middle aged clergyman. Cain knows that if he wants to gain guardianship of his sister he needs to marry well and he is even more determined to prove that Juliana is legitimate. But there is still someone out there, the person who killed Julianna's husband and covered it up as a robbery, who is trying to protect a deep dark secret. Juliana and Cain must work together to discover Juliana's past and try to bury Cain's own dark secrets to make a life together.
These were two great characters who were meant to be together. Juliana is perfect as the tradewoman who is struggling to make ends meet and trying to forge a name for herself in a very male dominated field of book selling and purchasing. There was one odd scene where she regarded a different tradesman with quite a bit of distaste because of his very middle-class back ground which I found very odd though. Cain was much more interesting to me because I always like stories that involve religion driving someone to madness or at least to do some incredibly horrific things and that was certainly the case in his family. He was also great because he was genuinely interesting in and wanted to help the women of the country try to improve their lots and he was certainly a lot more progressive about equality between the sexes than most of his peers (even some people today, really). Cain and Juliana worked very well together and they had some absolutely great moments. The sex was very hot although I wish there had been quite a bit more of it.
I won't lie: I admired the author's attempt to think of a new and interesting way to bring intrigue into a romance novel, but I just found it very difficult to care about these books. I guess there's a reason author's usually turn to spies and treason and not rich men stealing very old books from each other. It did get more interesting as we learned that there was some real intrigue going on as we had to discover who wanted to cover up Juliana's legitimacy, where the proof of said legitimacy was, and how exactly Cain's father had been blackmailed into giving up his copy of that devotional work. But the books themselves, although I have great love for them, did not really do it for me. In addition it was very difficult for me to keep all of the character's straight and they really seemed to blend into each other. I had to be introduced to someone several times before I remembered who he was and why/ if he was important, and some of them I still am unsure about. I also liked the little side plot involving Cain's father's madness and the secrets he was hiding as it was resolved, but did not end in a happily ever after and ruin the realism of it.
Rating: Above average book, but there was not all that much to distinguish it in the romance department, only a very well written mystery plot (or two).