❈ Huge thanks to Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with an ARC❈
Title: Merely a Marriage
Author: Jo Beverley
Release Date: May 30th 2017
Genre: Historical Romance
As England mourns the death of Princess Charlotte, Lady Ariana Boxstall has another succession in mind. Her brother, Norris, is a strapping young man, but he’s also happily unmarried and childless. Norris agrees to take a wife on one condition: that Ariana take a husband first. Although she realizes she risks a lifetime in a loveless marriage, for the sake of her family, Ariana accepts his challenge.
When the Earl of Kynaston met Ariana eight years ago, he broke her heart. Since then, his own heart has been broken, and he’s sworn off love…until he sees Ariana all grown-up and his resolve is threatened.
Could Ariana’s bargain with Norris actually lead her to happiness? With real love on the line, she must win over the one man who refuses to be had.
Merely a Marriage, Jo Beverley’s last novel, promises a second chance romance, hijinks, and charm. In actuality, Merely a Marriage was none of those things. Instead, it was a mishmash of conflicting plot lines, see through mystery, and bland, heartless characters.
The start of Merely a Marriage was fairly promising. Princess Charlotte’s recent death has changed the country, and got Ariana Boxtall, our heroine, thinking about the fate of her family if her brother dies leaving the family heirless. Ariana argues with her brother Norris, who is now the Earl of Langton, about his lack of a wife and heir. Ariana is so concerned that her younger brother could die wifeless and heirless that she agrees to his wager that he will marry if she marries first.
On their own, both Ariana and Kynaston, the hero, were shallow characters. I don’t think I’ve ever come across two character that were made up of so many characteristics that were there just for plot connivence. For example, one of my biggest problems with Ariana’s character was her beef with Kynaston. Without getting into spoiler-y territory, her beef with him was basically the equivalent of someone accidentally knocking into your shoulder and then you holding a grudge for 10 years. I’m a big fan of second chance romances and since her conflict with him was for the most shallow reason ever and it wasn’t even a second chance romance, I was super disappointed. That ended up being a trend throughout the story.
Plot wise, Merely a Marriage was an odd mess. Too many different storylines were thrown into the mix. There was Ariana’s love for Egypt and Greece, the eccentric society called the Curious Creatures who live in Kynaston’s old house, the marriage wager, Kynaston’s depression and refusal to marry, the former “relationship between” Ariana and Kynaston, and a scandal that later arises . The story couldn’t decide which one to focus on. The fact that important things like Kynaston’s depression and Ariana and Kynaston’s former acquaintance were quickly brushed under the rug, abandoned in favor of a new direction, or turned out to be based on shallow development was not beneficial to the story or the characters. On their own, the individual story lines had potential. There could’ve been a nuanced portrayal of Kynaston’s depression or a plot revolved around the Curious Creatures and their society that meets. Of course, that was not the case.
As the story progressed, new plot line after new plot line was introduced to further the already messy story. Certain events like the scandal that happens halfway through the book seemed all too convenient.
Everyone in the story knows the reason why Kynaston is a such mess. Despite this, no one ever seems to explicitly mention why. Along with Ariana, the reader doesn’t know until very late in the story why he is a mess and why he refuses to marry. Kynaston’s reasons for not marrying were based on facts that were public knowledge. Other characters often remark on his state, but they never address why he is the way he is. This was extremely unrealistic considering the reason was so simple and such a popular romance angst generating trope. There is no way that characters wouldn’t address it in a natural conversation. It was a see through way to create mystery~.
There was also this weird comment made by Kynaston/vaguely implied incest at around the halfway mark. Kynaston was trying to deter Ariana from pursuing certain men. She asks him why he thinks her love life is his business and then he replies by saying “You’re some sort of distant cousin. We share a family tree.”:
Ariana later mentions that Kynaston was just bluffing about them being related, but why even have that in the book if that was the case? Even mentioning the possibility of the heroine and the hero being related is NOT the way to a readers heart, especially in Historical Romance where some authors actually think is okay to do because of historical accuracy~ (which is a joke because Historical Romance is not about the historical accuracy. Who are we kidding.).
There were some other choice conversations that irked me. At one point Kynaston makes snide comment about him planning a rape when Arianna asks what he’s doing when he appears above her in bed. In another instance, one of the characters makes a comment that implies that Africa was a dark land.
Merely a Marriage is the biggest historical romance train wreck I have probably ever read. I’m glad it is over to say the least.