Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser

An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser
Historical Romance
November 5, 2012
Carina Press
Obtained through Net Galley.

Favorite Quote: “He may not earned the right, but he meant to live worthily of his extraordinary wife from this day forward.”

Jack Armstrong has spent his whole life on the battlefield, but nothing prepares him for battle he will have to fight in his own home. Jack married Elizabeth for convenience, then returned to the front lines. With the marriage left unconsummated and only a handful of cold letters between them. Jack isn't sure what to expect when he returns home; but a strong, confident, angry wife wasn’t it.

Elizabeth married Jack as a promise to her dying first husband. She hasn’t seen Jack in five years but she has certainly heard all about him and his escapades with other women. Having been the object of pity and ridicule because of his infidelity, Elizabeth has no intention of submitting to Jack in or out of the bedroom until he can earn her forgiveness.

As Jack prepares to battle his way into Elizabeth’s bed; his admiration and desire for Elizabeth  expands, until winning her heart and love is the only victory he will accept.

Marriage of convenience and infidelity aren’t new tropes in romances. Historically, brides get their husband’s last name and the security that comes with it while the mistresses got everything else. Often a blind eye was turned as long as the husband didn’t make a fool of his wife. In Suzanna Fraser’s An Infamous Marriage, the husband does make a fool out of his wife. Jack Armstrong, a lieutenant in the army, hadn’t planned to marry but when his best friend begged him, on his deathbed, to marry and care for his wife, Jack couldn’t deny him his dying request. So Jack reluctantly gets married, though the newly widowed Elizabeth, did offer to release him from the promise many times. A week after their marriage, Jack leaves for Canada to rejoin his unit, leaving a still grieving Elizabeth alone on his estate in a small secluded town. And here the trouble begins.

Jack, our hero, isn’t intentionally selfish or cruel. He is young, cocky, and seemingly has the world at his fingertips. Though a handsome man now, he wasn’t as a boy, and Jack’s self confidence needs the attention from the ladies. He doesn’t seek to hurt Elizabeth but offers up the notion that what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her. Besides, they never consummated the marriage so they aren't really married, at least in his mind. And no man is ever completely faithful, right? Unfortunately, gossip has a way of reaching even small secluded towns, as Jack learns when he arrives home, and Elizabeth proceeds to inform him that she knows all about his adventures. Jack finds himself in an unusual position. He’s ashamed of his behavior and seeks to make amends.

I liked Elizabeth. Not heralded as a great beauty, she is nonetheless a nice person who has seen her fair share of grief in her life but doesn’t wallow in self pity. She never made the mistake of thinking Jack was in love with her nor even that he would remain faithful...but she did expect him to treat her with respect as a person and as his wife. Already a victim of scandal as a child, hearing of his infidelities second hand made the pain and embarrassment worse. She chooses to hide herself on their estate; causing her to further blame Jack, for taking away her freedom.

Fraser does a wonderful job in addressing Jack’s infidelity and how it affects his relationship and marriage with Elizabeth. There is no instant forgiveness. Jack has to earn her trust and luckily for Elizabeth, he takes that to heart. Jack courts Elizabeth, much to her condensation and delight. Watching them get to know one and fall in love was interesting as well as humorous at times. The chemistry between them starts out slow but becomes quite steamy and ribald as both are naturally sensual people who are not shy in bed.

While we are introduced to various secondary characters, they really didn't make much of an impression on me story wise. They are more background scenery than anything else, for this story focuses solely on our hero and heroine. The background of the Napoleonic wars intertwines well with the storyline. The main conflict resolves easily, though there is a small crisis that comes back to threaten Jack and undo all the advancement he and Elizabeth have made. The resolution is believable and we are left with a small epilogue to assure us of our couple’s happiness.

My only problem with this book is that I was never able to connect with it beyond a singular level.  Well written, it’s told in a matter of fact style that lacks emotional tone. I felt as though the characters weren’t as fleshed out emotionally as they could have been. No real sense of frustration, anger, hurt, pain, ect...came through. They are quite congenial to one another. I wanted to feel Elizabeth’s rage and pain. I wanted Jack’s despair and anger to touch me. It was only in their lovemaking scenes did I get a hint of the passionate nature these characters had.

Even with my misgivings on the tone of the book, I did enjoy the story elements and the overall development of the characters and their relationship.

Overall Rating: C+

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