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confessions of an arranged marriage

(The Burgundy Club, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1822)

Book Blurb (Goodreads):

They couldn’t be more different—but there’s one thing they agree on…

In London after a two-year exile, Lord Blakeney plans to cut a swathe through the bedchambers of the demimonde. Marriage is not on his agenda, especially to an annoying chit like Minerva Montrose, with her superior attitude and a tendency to get into trouble. And certainly the last man Minerva wants is Blake, a careless wastrel without a thought in his handsome head.

The heat and noise of her debutante ball give Minerva a migraine. Surely a moment’s rest could do no harm… until Blake mistakes her for another lady, leaving Minerva’s guests to catch them in a very compromising position. To her horror, the scandal will force them to do the unthinkable: marry. Their mutual loathing blazes into unexpected passion but Blake remains distant, desperate to hide a shameful secret. Minerva’s never been a woman to take things lying down, and she’ll let nothing stop her from winning his trust . . . and his heart.

Kindle publication: 27th March 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you know the feeling when you read a book and love it and think of it fondly, then go back to re-read it, perhaps years later, and discover it really wasn’t that good? I was afraid I’d feel that way about Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by the late Miranda Neville. I’ve read many books by other authors since first reading it – my first by this author – and have become far more discerning in my reading habits since then. There are many books I’ve rated highly which would not now earn the rating I originally awarded them. However, I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, having read Confessions from an Arranged Marriage with my far more critical eye and expecting to be disappointed, I still loved it. I’ve read reviews on Goodreads which are mediocre to say the least, but I stand by my original, and now latest opinion, that this is a damn good read.

I originally downloaded it not knowing anything about the author or her work, only that the title appealed and it was a Kindle offer, so what could I lose? I have to say at this point, that had it been on a book shelf I would not have picked it up, because the cover is just dreadful. It doesn’t have any bearing on the story and is in no way period appropriate, so maybe an example of don’t judge a book by its cover.

I was pleased to learn that Miranda Neville was British born and bred and had originally been a journalist and editor. In my opinion, her earlier occupation showed in her intelligent writing style and correct use of the English language; there are no Americanisms or modernisms which are pet hates of mine when a story is set in historical England. This is not to say –  I hasten to add – that I consider only British authors to be intelligent as I have many favourites of all nationalities. One of my favourite books of all time was written by American author Anya Seton, and her exceptionally researched Historical Fiction/Romance novel about the true story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, set in medieval England, has been my go-to comfort read for many years. I didn’t discover that Miranda Neville was English until after I had read Confessions from an Arranged Marriage, but it answered a lot of questions for me as to why I didn’t have one single criticism apropos of my previously mentioned pet-hates. Miranda Neville has quite obviously written a story about a subject and place she knew and in a language she knew. She emigrated to America and was extremely popular with her fans, here in the UK and in the USA.

I joined the series half way through so it can obviously be read as a standalone since I had no problem following the storyline. In fact, I’m glad I read the series in the order I did because I may well have been deterred from reading Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by the hero, the Marquis of Blakeney (aka Blake), who isn’t shown as a particularly likeable character in the preceding books in the series.

I’m not going into the story too deeply because there’s a lot happening. Suffice to say that there is an extremely attractive and intelligent young heroine, Minerva, who has a rather high opinion of herself and her intellect. She aspires to become a political hostess and sees herself as ‘the power behind the throne’ of who knows? Maybe even the Prime Minister one day, with her help from behind the scenes, of course, and a politically motivated husband who will listen to her own, quite radical views on the voting systems and rights of the common people – even women – although she knows that this is a step too far for the times.

Instead, Minerva’s aspirations are dashed (or so she believes) when she is caught in a compromising situation with her nemesis Blake, heir to a dukedom. He’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and a formidable sportsman, but apparently as dim as Miranda is brilliant. She is by no means the perfect wife for him as far as his family is concerned, but as she is their neighbour and was compromised in their home by their drunken son, and they are the very epitome of the adjective honourable, she knows she has no choice but to marry Blake, a man she has always detested. And he’s stuck with a girl ten years his junior who makes him feel even more stupid than he already secretly feels.

This is such a mixture of a story; there are moments of such heart-breaking sadness which touched me deeply, but Miranda Neville was extremely witty and, as well as being terribly saddened by Blake’s predicament, there were also moments of such hilarity that I literally laughed out loud. Blake insists on calling Minerva, Minnie – quite obviously this budding, political hostess is not impressed by the immature nom de plume. As the story progresses and Minerva tries to make the best of a bad job, she begins to see the vulnerability behind the man she has married and protests less and less; at one point even missing it when something happens to stop his use of the nickname. I was also very touched by Blake’s determination to earn ‘Minnie’s’ respect.

It would be quite easy to dislike Minerva, and indeed that’s exactly what some reviewers have said, but I liked her once I’d got to the bottom of her character. I particularly like how she begins to see beyond Blake’s brittle and supposedly couldn’t-care-less, outer shell. She starts to fall for the man he really is – rather loveable actually, and one who is covering up a massive lack of inner self-esteem with an outer show of bravado. Miranda Neville grows their relationship from enemies-to-friends-to-lovers using a credible series of events which unfold as the story progresses. Blake’s dark secret has led to him being victimised and blackmailed for a large part of his life and, as his clever wife begins to follow the clues and consequently unravels her man, I felt more and more invested in their growing romance and loved how Minerva becomes as fierce as a lioness in her protectiveness towards him.

Miranda Neville has set her story in the political arena of the time, taking a subject which could bore the hell out of the reader but which instead had me fascinated by ‘rotten boroughs’ and what it all meant.  There is a point at which Minerva finds herself out of her depth and not quite as clever as she believed herself to be. She is obliged to throw herself on Blake’s mercy and he in turn, rather than enjoying her discomfort, charges in rescuing her like a knight in shining armour. Quite, quite heart-warming. His piece de resistance where he shows, perhaps not his political acumen (as his words are Minerva’s), but his integrity and mettle as a man, with not only the power of the dukedom behind him, but the support of his (by now) beloved ‘Minnie’, is just bone melting; in fact, their developing love story is believable and endearing and Miranda Neville has taken two opposites and shown that it is not only possible for there to be love under these circumstances but also that two people may love and compliment each other as long as they have a common goal.

One last point which I particularly liked and which rarely crops up in Historical Romance. The ‘wedding night’ was not a great success and Minerva wasn’t impressed with ‘the act’ and the way the experience is described is plausible. Of course, matters improve and there are, eventually, explicit scenes. Minerva is not one to do anything by halves, but I did not find this aspect cringeworthy; in fact, I liked that she grew to welcome Blake’s embraces, eventually even seducing him – much to his surprise and pleasure.

MY VERDICT:
This is a lovely story – sad, surprising, witty, funny, romantic and intelligently and sensitively written. I’m happy to say that I was not wrong, and Confessions from an Arranged Marriage will remain a favourite of mine. The author doesn’t attempt to magically sort out the underlying problem but instead finds ways of working around it. I had the great pleasure of meeting Miranda Neville on one of her visits home to the UK; we discussed this book and she was pleased to know how much I had loved it. I’m even more pleased that we met and had this discussion given that we lost this lovely lady to cancer in 2018. I count myself privileged to have met her and am saddened that she was taken from her family, friends and readers before her time.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

RSENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

The Burgundy Club series (for further details click on the book covers):

The Wild Marquis (The Burgundy Club, #1) by Miranda Neville The Dangerous Viscount (The Burgundy Club, #2) by Miranda Neville The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton (The Burgundy Club, #3) by Miranda Neville Confessions from an Arranged Marriage (The Burgundy Club, #4) by Miranda Neville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(The Burgundy Club, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The Marquis of Chase is not a reputable man.

He is notorious for his wretched morals and is never received in respectable houses. The ladies of the ton would never allow him in their drawing rooms . . . though they were more than willing to welcome him into their bedchambers. Ejected from his father’s house at the age of sixteen, he now lives a life of wanton pleasure. So what could the Marquis of Chase possibly want with Juliana Merton, a lovely, perfectly upstanding shopkeeper with a mysterious past?

A moment’s indiscretion?

A night’s passion?

Or a lifetime of love?

Even the wildest rakes have their weaknesses . . .

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I read this, my first book by Miranda Neville, on the recommendation of a friend and I wasn’t disappointed. It was an extremely enjoyable mix of mystery and romance and the setting – the world of London’s bibliophiles – was both original and fascinating. I’m sure that Ms Neville’s experience of working in the rare books and manuscripts department of Sotheby’s proved invaluable in providing authenticity to the story.

Cain (Chase’s nickname) was thrown out of the house at the age of sixteen, accused by his late father of a terrible crime he did not commit. Left vulnerable and penniless in London, he was rescued and given shelter at Mrs. Rafferty’s bordello by two kindly prostitutes. A social outcast, over the past eight years, he has lived a hedonistic lifestyle estranged from his mother and younger sister.

He is handsome, charming, witty and intelligent but, beneath that rakish mask, he is also a thoughtful and compassionate man. I love how he treats women, including Juliana, with consideration and respect and then there are his acts of generosity towards his former servants and prostitutes seeking help or sanctuary. I think Juliana’s words sum up Cain’s character perfectly.

“You are the kindest person I know,” she said. “You protect women. You love your sister, your friends, even your mother. You possess uncommon intelligence and powers of perception. Without them I would never have found out about my parents. You are clever and witty and the best of companions. You have only to look at me with your beautiful eyes to make me want to make love to you.”

Cain and Juliana share a common bond as Juliana’s illegitimate birth makes her a social outcast too and she also knows the pain and loneliness of being exiled from the only home she has ever known. I admired the way she has made her own way in a world that offered women very little opportunity. Cain sees her hard work, intelligence and determination in contrast to his own idle and frivolous life and it spurs him to take up those responsibilities that come with his title that he has long neglected.

I felt so sad that Cain had not seen his family for so many years, particularly as it was obvious how much he adored his sister, Esther, and their meeting after so many years was such an emotional one.

He took her in his arms and hugged her, as he had the day his father dismissed him from the house. Just as he had then, he murmured comforting words, rubbed her back, and dried her tears.

I admired his determination to reform his character to secure guardianship of Esther. It was easy to feel Cain’s pain at his mother’s continued rejection of him.

“As my mother you have my respect and affection. I hope that one day you will be able to return them.”

I liked how Cain and Juliana talked openly to each other and, when they consummated their relationship, their lovemaking wasn’t perfect as in so many other books I’ve read. The lovemaking scene in the carriage is one of the most sensual and humorous I’ve read.

The story is filled with humour as well and one the funniest scenes is where Cain is trying to identify what a book cover is made from.

“Interesting texture,” he said, stroking the worn cover. “A male beast, I believe, but not entirely virile. A rather shy badger? Am I right? Is it badger skin?”
“No.”
“A bashful beaver? No?”
He rested his head on her chest, which was heaving with laughter, and appeared to be lost in deep thought. “I’m on the wrong track,” he mused. “I know! It’s a smaller animal but a strong one. A stout stoat? A rapacious rat? “

There are some colourful secondary characters, none more so than Cain’s rather “unusual” housekeeper, Mrs Melisande Duchamp, who has no scruples about speaking her mind!

She emitted a crack of laughter. “Purview! That’s a good one. Especially since it was me what taught you how to keep ’em in good order. Lusty little bastard you were. And is it within my purview to know why you’re upsetting the household by calling for your breakfast at nine in the morning?”

There is also Quarto, Juliana’s rather ineffective guard dog, who only seems to growl at Cain and has rather unfortunate sniffing habits when it comes to females!!

We are introduced to Sebastian Iverley and Tarquin Compton, two book collectors, who are future heroes of the series. I am particularly intrigued by the bespectacled, badly dressed Iverley who hates women and look forward to reading his downfall in book 2 of the series, The Dangerous Viscount.

The mystery element involving the truth surrounding Juliana’s birth and the murder of her husband is neatly woven around but never overshadows the romance. There is quite a nail-biting climax but, as with all good romances, the villain is suitably dispatched allowing Cain and Juliana to have their HEA.

My Verdict: An extremely enjoyable story with an original setting, interesting characters and the perfect balance of mystery and romance.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read July 2015

Burgundy Club series (click on book cover for more details):

The Wild Marquis (The Burgundy Club, #1) by Miranda Neville The Dangerous Viscount (The Burgundy Club, #2) by Miranda Neville The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton (The Burgundy Club, #3) by Miranda Neville Confessions from an Arranged Marriage (The Burgundy Club, #4) by Miranda Neville

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The Burgundy Club series was recommended to me by my friend, Wendy Loveridge.

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(The Burgundy Club, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The Marquis of Chase is not a reputable man.

He is notorious for his wretched morals and is never received in respectable houses. The ladies of the ton would never allow him in their drawing rooms . . . though some of them have welcomed him into their bedchambers. Ejected from his father’s house at the age of sixteen, he now lives a life of wanton pleasure. So what could the Marquis of Chase possibly want with Juliana Merton, a lovely, perfectly upstanding shopkeeper with a mysterious past?

A moment’s indiscretion?

A night’s passion?

Or a lifetime of love?

Even the wildest rakes have their weaknesses . . .

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Read Full Post »

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