Having managed to escape the clutches of Chance Macy and wed her childhood love, Edward Auburn, Julia hopes that she may finally have the simple countHaving managed to escape the clutches of Chance Macy and wed her childhood love, Edward Auburn, Julia hopes that she may finally have the simple country life that she always longed for. But her wedded bliss is cut short when her husband’s family and congregation shun him for his alliance with Julia, whose reputation and association with Macy has now spread far and wide. Soon Julia and Edward are forced back to London to seek the assistance of Julia’s father. In spite of their desire to keep out of the public eye, news of the Emerald Heiress’s marriage is quickly leaked to the papers—bringing Julia back into Macy’s sights. It won’t be long before the public discovers that Lord Pierson’s long-lost daughter is also the runaway bride of Chance Macy. Will Julia be able to convince the courts that she was merely a pawn in a much larger game? Or will her marriage to Edward be cut drastically short as she is thrust back into Macy’s arms?
When I picked up the first novel in Jessica Dotta’s Price of Privilege series, I had no idea that I was going to be sucked into such a dark and dramatic story. I will admit, I picked up Born of Persuasion because I was intrigued by the comparison of Dotta’s writing to that of Austen and the Bronte sisters. These claims are made so often, and on very few occasions have I actually come across a novel that really can lay claim to these assertions. The Price of Privilege series is one of the few exceptions. What starts out as an intriguing story about a girl with an unhappy childhood, who enjoyed holidays with her friends in the countryside, rapidly takes a much darker, sinister turn, with characters that readers will struggle to peg as truly good or evil. The claustrophobia of Julia’s life, as well as the seemingly doomed relationship between her and Edward, were definitely evocative of the Brontes, and reminded me of Wuthering Heights in particular. As for the Austen claims? The humour and social commentary injected by the character of Jameson in this book definitely took the edge of the darkness, and who can forget Mrs Windham’s theatrics?
I’ve said this in reviews for the other books, but it needs repeating—these novels truly encapsulate just how difficult it was to be a woman in this time period. After her mother dies, Julia has to rely on the men around her to protect her—a task particularly perilous, given that she doesn’t know if she can trust her guardian and biological father. Believing that she can no longer rely on her childhood friend, Edward, she even goes as far as engaging the help of a matchmaker, hoping that marriage will provide the security that she seeks. There were times when I felt frustrated at Julia, because she couldn’t fix the messes she found herself in, and I had to force myself to remember that there was literally nothing she could do. Even a woman of fortune such as Julia was still at the mercy of her father, husband or brothers. The court case that takes place in this novel has as much to do with deciding who Julia belongs to (Macy, Pierson or Edward) as it does charging anyone with a crime.
I have to admit that Edward isn’t my favourite romantic hero. Julia spends two books longing to be with him, but since we don’t get to spend a lot of time with him, Isaac (Lord Pierson’s protégé) ended up capturing my heart instead. That said, you don’t have to be particularly enamoured with Edward to care about the fate of his and Julia’s relationship. I appreciated that Jessica Dotta was able to make the reader care about characters other than the protagonist. Isaac, Jameson, Evelyn, the Dalrys and even Nancy all have their flaws and endearing qualities. Julia and Edward are perhaps the most flawed characters of all. In spite of my continual frustrations with Julia (her rashness and temper particularly aggravated me at times), I can’t deny that she was fantastically realistic. Maybe even I would have thrown plates around if I felt as helpless as she was.
The last quarter of this book really amped up the drama and the emotional impact of the story. I was reading this book while I waited for my five-month-old son to fall asleep, and I will admit that I sat with him asleep on my lap for a full half hour because I could not put this book down once I entered the final quarter! I don’t want to spoil anything, but Jessica Dotta definitely took a wrench to my poor heart. Julia’s situation is truly helpless, and various characters are forced into situations that they wouldn’t otherwise find themselves in, testing and proving the true strength of their love for our heroine. Julia is also tested, and forced to find solace in God when she realises this situation is completely and utterly out of her control—and that had she taken different steps in the past, she could have avoided this mess entirely. My heart truly hurt for her. You may require tissues for the ending of this book.
Looking at the covers for this series, you might be mistaken in thinking that these are light, sweet romances. Don’t get me wrong—there are some humorous moments, some sweet ones, and definitely some romance. But not every character will get a happy ending, and some will be broken in ways that will be incredibly hard to fix. Difficult issues are dealt with within the pages of Price of Privilege, and while important lessons are learned, I wouldn’t want to be in Julia’s shoes for all the pretty dresses in London. I’m grateful that times have changed, and that I will never feel as hopeless as Julia Elliston, even if her story is fascinatingly addictive.
Abigail Stuart may have found her calling as a nurse during the Civil War, but as the fighting draws to a close she dreads returning to the home fromAbigail Stuart may have found her calling as a nurse during the Civil War, but as the fighting draws to a close she dreads returning to the home from which she fled. When a dying soldier asks her to marry him so that she may care for his ailing sister and look after the family farm, Abigail is certain that his offer provides a solution to her problem. Arriving at the farm in Missouri as the widow of the late Jeremiah Calhoun, Abigail is met with loving arms by Jeremiah’s mother, scepticism from his sister, and confusion from the fiancée he left behind. Even if her new neighbours are hesitant about welcoming a Yankee into their circle, her nursing skills and knowledge of horses make her an asset to the community.
Abigail has barely settled into life on the Calhoun farm when an invalided soldier arrives, claiming that he is Jeremiah Calhoun and that he has been in hiding for the past few months. Abigail’s neat new life is quickly shattered, and she scrambles to convince the Calhouns that she never intended to trick them—she truly believed she married a man named Jeremiah. Just who was the injured soldier that she wed, and why did he send her here? Will Jeremiah allow her to remain on the farm, or will she be forced back to the home she detests?
Jeremiah has been dreaming of the day he would be reunited with his fiancée, but he never imagined he’d arrive home to find a stranger pretending to be his wife, and his fiancée having moved on to another beau after believing him dead. He’s determined to run Abigail Stuart out of Missouri and back to Ohio, but he can’t deny that his sister needs her medical assistance, and that he can’t keep the farm running with his war injuries making it hard for him to work. He accepts Abigail’s assistance, but only until he regains his strength and his horse has foaled. By that time, he hopes to have won back his fiancée. But after months of working side by side with Abigail, will he have won the heart of his inconvenient wife instead?
Like many readers of historical romance, I’m a sucker for a marriage of convenience story, but A Most Inconvenient Marriage doesn’t feature your typical scenario. Abigail’s “marriage” lasts hours at the most, and is arranged so that she can provide assistance to her husband’s family—or so she believes. It isn’t until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up that her situation truly becomes inconvenient. Jeremiah finds himself with a wife he doesn’t want, while trying to woo back the fiancée he’s dreamed of all throughout the war. The situation may be inconvenient to Jeremiah, but Abigail was quite content to care for his family and farm.
I really admired the character of Abigail. She’s a hard worker who puts up with a lot of people who don’t truly appreciate her efforts—from Jeremiah’s stubborn sister, Rachel, to the neighbours who dislike her purely because she’s from the North. Even if she gets herself into potentially dangerous positions, she always means well, and she isn’t scared of doing something unconventional if it benefits those she cares about. Her pranks with the neighbouring children and attempts to cheer up Rachel warmed my heart, as did her rudimentary physiotherapy sessions with Jeremiah.
It took me longer to warm up to Jeremiah, particularly because he was so hung up on his fiancée, Laurel, and was initially pretty mean to Abigail. When he returns home, his main concern is winning back Laurel, and Abigail is merely an obstacle to his goal. Since I’d spent a while getting to know Abigail before Jeremiah’s arrival, I couldn’t see why he was so enamoured with Laurel. After a while, I began to realise that Laurel was the only thing that had kept Jeremiah going during the war—after he’d lost his friend, injured his leg and been forced to hide out behind enemy lines, she was all that remained of his former life, all that reminded him of who he used to be. If he could be reunited with Laurel, he could prove to himself that he was the man he was before the war began, in spite of his crippled leg. His situation reminded me of the many shotgun weddings that occur before men leave for war, often so that the men have someone to think of and give them hope when they’re at battle.
One of the reasons why “Jeremiah” chooses Abigail to send to his family is her knowledge of horse-farming. I’ve got to admit, I do not see the appeal of horses at all. Growing up, I felt like the only girl in my class who didn’t go through a “horse phase”. There was a riding stable situated right outside my village, and I still had no desire to get on a horse, or even read a book about one. A Most Inconvenient Marriage may be the only book about horses that actually got me interested in the subject. Abigail’s passions definitely intrigued me, and I could understand her sadness at being separated from the horse she had bred back on her family farm with her father. There weren’t too many horse-farming details to bore me, but just enough to let me get a feel of the kind of work Abigail and Jeremiah were trained in. The farm, as well as the surrounding area and Jeremiah’s family, felt real to me.
I studied the US Civil War for an entire year in high school, and I remember getting bogged down in dates and statistics about battles. I loved social history, and wanted to learn about how real people were impacted by the war; men like Jeremiah, and the families they left behind to fend for themselves. I certainly got a sense for how families like Jeremiah’s attempted to manage after the war ended. Their situation wasn’t easy, with their livestock mostly sold off and seriously depleted, no money to hire hands to plant crops, and at the mercy of bushwhackers who were roaming the area and stealing horses. The neighbours are at odds, shunning those who chose the opposite side during the war, even if it means refusing to trade with each other, or ignoring the help of a nurse simply because she came from the North. Regina Jennings paints a fantastic picture of the South after the Civil War comes to an end.
The romance in A Most Inconvenient Marriage is a slow burner, naturally, since Jeremiah is determined to win back Laurel and sees Abigail as an impediment to his goal. When Jeremiah and Abigail do begin to see each other in a favourable light, the romance is definitely worth the wait. And when the bushwhackers begin causing chaos? This book becomes impossible to put down. I may have been guilty of handing my six-month-old son to my husband as soon as he walked in the door this evening so that I could finish up the final chapter of this book in peace. If you like unconventional romances with a drop of suspense and a cast of endearing secondary characters, you won’t want to miss A Most Inconvenient Marriage.
Emma Chambers has always longed for a home of her own, but she’s spent most of her adult life following her brother, Ryan, as he searches for work. EaEmma Chambers has always longed for a home of her own, but she’s spent most of her adult life following her brother, Ryan, as he searches for work. Each time Ryan takes on a new job, Emma hopes they’ll settle down for a while, long enough for her to feel secure. When the steamboat taking them to Detroit—on yet another job hunt—is set upon by pirates, Emma and Ryan find themselves forced to temporarily settle at Presque Isle while Ryan attempts to earn back the money the pirates stole from them. While Ryan is able to earn his living by chopping wood, Emma quickly discovers that the inhabitants of Presque Isle have no use for a single woman. None of them, that is, except Patrick Garraty, the lighthouse keeper.
Patrick doesn’t have long to grieve the untimely death of his wife, given that he has a lighthouse to keep and a toddler son to raise. He has no idea how he’s supposed to balance both these tasks when his work requires him to be away from his son every night, tending the light in the tower. When the travelling preacher introduces him to Emma, a woman in need of a home, he isn’t sure if he’s doing the right thing in marrying her. While his son desperately needs a mother, and Emma longs for security, Patrick worries that she’ll be just as unhappy as his first wife. Can any woman be happy with a man like him, with the secrets that his past holds? His first wife was disgusted when she learned of his prior life—will Emma react similarly? Should Patrick keep the truth from her, for the sake of their family?
Spending many a holiday along the coasts of Scotland, I have fond memories of the various lighthouses I visited as a child. I’m fairly certain that many of them were no longer in use (in fact, at least one had been turned into a tea room) but the occupation of the lightkeeper and the immense responsibility their position held has always intrigued me. The realities of the pressures that lightkeepers faced were revealed to me in all their fullness in Love Unexpected. As beautiful and fascinating as lighthouses may be, I didn’t envy Patrick’s job in the slightest. Having finished the book, I’m still unsure as to how he managed to tend the light, make repairs, fish, cook, and care for his son on so little sleep—even with Emma’s help! Lightkeeping is not a glamorous job, nor does it pay well. Patrick was definitely a refreshing change from the titled aristocrats in other romance novels I read this month.
I imagine that Emma’s position is not unlike that of many displaced Irish immigrants in this period. Many Irish children were left without a parent—or both—following the potato famine, or even the journey that took them away from their homeland. Emma and her brother want different things out of life, but she doesn’t have any option other than to keep following Ryan until she can find a husband. I’m sure that many readers can relate to Emma’s longing for a home, especially if—like her—you can barely remember what “home” feels like. That said, I’m not sure if I could be as brave as Emma. Even with the recommendation of a preacher, could you marry a man you’ve only met once?
Love Unexpected definitely falls into the “marriage of convenience” category of romance novels, which is a personal favourite. I really enjoyed the way that Emma and Patrick’s relationship developed. Given that their family lives at the lighthouse, a fair distance from the rest of Presque Isle, a large part of the book is focused purely on the interactions between Emma, Patrick and Patrick’s son, Josiah. We get to witness the hard work that goes into running a lighthouse, caring for a toddler and the mundane tasks of keeping a family in food and clean clothing. I appreciated that Emma wasn’t a natural when it came to cooking and housekeeping, and that she struggled to calm Josiah’s tantrums. I’ve read too many books that feature heroines who take to the task of keeping house perfectly, in spite of their previous lack of experience. Given the recent and very sudden loss of his mother, it seemed entirely realistic that Josiah pitched a fit whenever his dad set off in his boat and left him with Emma. Emma’s struggles to keep up with the day-to-day tasks of keeping house and looking after Josiah made her all the more a relatable character. I also appreciated that Patrick was not a stranger when it came to cooking and cleaning. I’d love to see more historical heroes who pitch in to help their women around the home!
I was initially cautious about the conflict in this story, given that it largely stemmed from secrets that Patrick was keeping from Emma, and gossip that was spread about the true nature of these secrets. I’m not a big fan of the Big Misunderstanding/Lack of Communication trope, mostly because I’m far more likely to discuss an issue as soon as it arises, rather than overreact and run away before it can be explained. Thankfully, Emma was a woman after my own heart, and did make an effort to sort out matters with her new husband. I don’t want to give too much away about the conflict in this novel, but I will say that it involves pirates! Who else loves a good pirate romance? I’m sure I’m not the only one.
With Patrick running his lighthouse, fishing and brooding over his dark past, and Emma learning the cook, washing mountains of laundry and chasing Josiah around, it did seem like our hero and heroine would never have time to fall in love. And I suppose that their situation probably represented a true marriage of convenience, where a man seeks a wife because he literally has no time to tend to his home and children. Do not fear—there is plenty of romance in this book! It takes a while to develop, but I loved the shy interactions between Emma and Patrick. Readers will soon learn just why Patrick is so hesitant with his new bride, and the truth will endear him to them all the more. There were some incredibly romantic scenes in the lighthouse that I absolutely adored. And since this is a novel about a married couple, the romance in this novel pertains to more than just kissing—but without being overly explicit. I always appreciate it when Christian novels hint at true happily wedded bliss. This isn’t something to be hidden away, folks!
Love Unexpected is a beautiful novel full of romance and redemption. Patrick and Emma are realistically flawed protagonists who are able to put aside past secrets and gossip to forge a future together. Since none of us enters a relationship without any lingering baggage, their story is a great reminder of the effort that is often required to make a marriage work.