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The Wrong Marquess by Vivienne Lorret

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The Wrong Marquess

by Vivienne Lorret
June 29, 2021 · Avon
Historical: EuropeanRegencyRomance

The Wrong Marquess is a Regency-set romance between sought-after bachelor Brandon, the Marquess of Hullworth, and Elodie Parrish, a 25-year old spinster who is waiting for her childhood friend, George, to propose to her. While the story managed to use some of my least favourite tropes in some very clever ways, it also contained an incredibly frustrating love triangle that extended so far into the book that I really questioned Elodie’s judgment.

Brandon is the consummate man-about-town: wealthy, sophisticated, cynical, and rather arrogant. He reminds me of some of Heyer’s more odious heroes – Lord Worth from Regency Buck, for example. Brandon is considered the catch of the Season, and has become accustomed to young ladies throwing themselves at him. When Elodie collides with him at a party, he assumes that this is yet another stratagem, and is brutally sarcastic. And when he discovers that she has befriended his sister, he is furious. His sister has been hurt by false gestures of friendship from would-be suitors of his before, and he is determined not to let it happen again.

Elodie, however, has eyes only for George, her next door neighbour. He was kind to her when they were both children, and it has always been understood that they will marry. At some point. When he gets around to proposing. Which he surely will. One day. But in the meantime, would Elodie mind sewing this button back on his coat? Nobody looks after George like Elodie does…

George treats Elodie with a casual affection that is more casual than affectionate, and frequently fails to appear at events that he has promised to attend with her, so it is perhaps not surprising that Brandon at first believes that George, too, is a stratagem to allow Elodie to get close to him while pretending that she is not interested. Honestly, Brandon’s conviction that Elodie was throwing herself at him bordered on the perverse. Elodie was pretty clear about not liking him, and it annoyed me that he spent so much time assuming that she was lying, generally on very little evidence. Worse, every time he was proved wrong, he felt bad about it – and then turned around and suspected her of lying again three pages later.

Yet despite this, the story managed to charm me at times. Elodie was orphaned young and sees impending disaster around every corner. I really liked the way her anxiety was depicted. She is drily funny about her phobias, and her catastrophizing felt both hilarious and familiar to me.

I also have to put in a brief note of delight regarding Elodie’s sweet, elderly spinster aunts, who are completely obsessed with stealing recipes. They have never met an hors d’oeuvre that they do not covet, and the background to any social gathering in this story involves two elderly ladies sneaking petits fours into their handbags and making plans to abstract recipes from the cook by any means necessary. Truly, they are Napoleons of culinary crime.

I also liked the way Brandon began to redeem himself as the book progresses. Once George actually appears, Brandon realises that he has been unfair to Elodie, and his behaviour towards her completely changes. Brandon realises that he rather likes her, and also realizes that he doesn’t like the way her would-be-betrothed takes her for granted. Much of his courtship of Elodie simply consists of reliably being there and doing the things he says he will do, in marked contrast to George’s fecklessness and inconsistency. Brandon is also very kind and even tender when it comes to helping Elodie confront her fears. In the end, their romance was very sweet.

Unfortunately, their romance was marred for me by Elodie’s continuing insistence that she is destined to marry George. This persisted way too far into the book, even as George repeatedly demonstrated his thoughtlessness and even cruelty where her phobias were concerned. Even after falling in love with Brandon, Elodie felt compelled to protect George’s feelings at the expense of her own and Brandon’s. I found this rather distressing, as George’s behaviour was awful on a number of levels, and it seemed to me that Elodie was treating both herself and Brandon rather unfairly.

The Wrong Marquess is a story that frustrated and charmed me by turns. When the romance between Elodie and Brandon was working, it was really lovely – touching, funny and very sweet. But for too much of the book, the romance wasn’t working. Either Brandon was imagining the worst of Elodie, or Elodie was sacrificing everyone’s feelings to protect the feckless George. I did enjoy the twist on some very traditional romance archetypes – the handsome, arrogant, but ultimately kind hero, and the clever, anxious ingenue. And the secondary characters were great. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if George had been trampled by the elephant in Chapter 7.

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