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Monday, June 19, 2006

Married in Haste by Cathy Maxwell


Brenn Owens, the new Earl of Merton, has come to London to choose a bride. The broad-shouldered war hero has his pick of the season's debutantes, but once he gazes upon Tess Hamlin, he knows he won't rest until he's made her his own. But behind Tess's light-hearted facade is desperation. She has no choice but to marry quickly, before news of her family's ruin becomes common gossip, so she accepts Brenn's sudden proposal—without letting him know the truth. He offers her days and nights of unforgettable passion and love, but how can she marry him without feeling she's betrayed him? Brenn Owens, the new Earl of Merton, has come to London to choose a bride. The broad-shouldered war hero has his pick of the season's debutantes, but once he gazes upon Tess Hamlin, he knows he won't rest until he's made her his own. But behind Tess's light-hearted facade is desperation. She has no choice but to marry quickly, before news of her family's ruin becomes common gossip, so she accepts Brenn's sudden proposal—without letting him know the truth. He offers her days and nights of unforgettable passion and love, but how can she marry him without feeling she's betrayed him?

This is one of those BIG MISUNDERSTANDING plots that generally irritate the ever-lovin shit out of me. And sure enough, this one was no exception..until halfway through it, that is.

Tess is the most sought after women of the ton. Even though she's been out on the market for several years, she's beautiful and has such a large fortune she's been allowed to run wild, for the most part. While at a ball, she makes a bet with the other diamond of the first water that season to see who can be the first to receive a proposal that evening.

Tess sets her sights on Brenn Owens, an Earl from Welsh who's just come to town, no realizing that he's there in search of a bride...a wealthy one. And he's set his sights on her, too. When the matchmaking mama's at the ball catch wind of the bet (which also involved several other ladies of the ton), Tess's older brother, and guardian, says he's had enough and agrees to a betrothal between Brenn and Tess, despite Tess's refusal.

But what Tess doesn't find out until the next morning is...her fortune is gone. Her brother claims to have invested all of it in an Italian inventor and lost ever last cent. All 50,000 pounds of it. Crushed, and desperate to help her brother, Tess reluctantly agrees to the marriage, but promises her brother that she won't tell Brenn the truth about her fortune until they're well settled together.

As they travel to Brenn's estate, Tess falls in love with Brenn, but fears what will happen when he finds out about her fortune, never realizing that he's only married her for his money. For Brenn's part, he seems to be coming to care for Tess and doesn't want to tell her what a state of disrepair his estate is in, so he waits until they're there and she can see for herself. Can we say DUMBASS??

Anyway, they get there, Tess sees the house that's falling down (literally) and the village, which needs a lot, and tells Brenn (finally) that she has no fortune. Then, being an idiot man, Brenn yells at her and tells her he only married her for money and he's sorry for it now and blah, blah, blah.

And this, this is where I started liking the book. Yep, believe it or not, it's true.

Why? Because of Tess. Rather than running back to London with her maid, or falling into hysterics or even wallowing in self-pity, that very night (though she kicked Brenn out) she comes up with a plan to raise the money they need and then sets out to make nice with villagers and learn to care for herself. Plus, she shuts Brenn out of bed and doesn't go back on it. It was wonderful watching her find herself and seeing Brenn fall all over himself to please her as he watches her change.

The only thing I truly hated about this book is that Tess finally realizes (with Brenn's help, when he first realized she wasn't an heiress any longer) that her brother didn't lose her fortune, but spent it on himself, and he never got his comeuppance. I realize that the book wasn't about that, but I really wanted to see him pay for stealing his baby sister's fortune. And I especially hated his cruel, calculating wife.

Otherwise, it was a great read. The beginning pissed me off, but I found myself sucked in despite my issues with the plot, and I'm very happy I stuck it out.

Oh, and just FYI: There are two other books that follow this one (that I know of, though there may be more) and I can't wait to read them. The heroines are Tess's best friends from London.

Married In Haste
A Scandalous MarriageThe Marriage Contract

4 out of 5

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