When the Marquess Met His Match
By Laura Lee Guhrke
October 29, 2013
Once Miss Belinda Hamilton of Cleveland, Ohio, was one of the daughters of nouveau riche American millionaires snubbed by New York Knickerbocker society who married an English aristocrat and found social acceptance across the Atlantic. But Belinda learned firsthand that such unions came with no guarantee of an HEA. At seventeen, she fell madly in love with the handsome, charming Charles, Earl of Featherstone whom she married six weeks after they met. By the time his dissolute lifestyle led to his death of heart failure five years into their marriage, Belinda’s illusions about romantic love had been shattered.
Her husband’s spendthrift ways and her father’s Wall Street speculation left the former heiress a widow of modest means, but her place in English society is secure. That status allows her to supplement her income by serving as a marriage broker. Five years into her widowhood, Belinda has established a reputation as the matchmaker best suited to help wealthy young American women avoid her mistake and find an aristocratic husband who will bring them not only social status but also a happy marriage based on “a solid foundation of sincere affection, shared interests, and like minds.”
The last person Nicholas Stirling, Marquess of Trubridge, rake extraordinaire, expects to have need of is a matchmaker, but when, shortly after Nicholas turns thirty, his estranged father, the Duke of Landsdowne, cuts off the trust fund from Nicholas’s mother, the young marquess feels that marriage to a wealthy bride is his best option. Nicholas refuses to submit to the dictates of the domineering father to whom he has not spoken in eight years and marry the proper wife the duke has chosen for his heir. Since the well-known marriage broker Lady Featherstone is the sister-in-law of his good friend Jack, Nicholas decides to approach her for help, confident that she will steer him toward some likely candidates to become Marchioness of Trubridge.
Nicholas represents all that Belinda detests most, a man with a history of a life devoted to wine, women, and gaming who is marrying only for money to support his decadent lifestyle. Under no circumstances will she be instrumental in leading another young woman into the kind of disastrous marriage that Belinda knew with Featherstone. Not content simply to refuse to help Trubridge, Belinda announces that she will use her considerable influence to thwart his plans. Nicholas, angry that she has judged him by reputation without knowing any of the circumstances, accepts the challenge. The battle begins. Neither is prepared for the attraction that sparks between them and grows with every encounter. The stakes are higher than either expected, and their hearts are on the line. But both Belinda and Nicholas must grow and change before they can claim the kind of happiness they had come to believe was only the illusory dreams of innocents.
When the Marquess Met His Match is the first book in Laura Lee Guhrke’s An American Heiress in London series set in the late 19th century. Belinda and Nicholas are intelligent, articulate people, and their dialogue is delightful. I especially enjoyed the scenes where Nicholas meets the “perfect matches” Belinda has set up based on his criteria for a wife, but the best scene occurs when Nicholas turns the tables on her and demonstrates why she meets the most important criteria.
Belinda is slow to let down her defenses, but her resistance allows time for the relationship to develop convincingly, and her forthrightness with Nicholas serves as a catalyst for the changes he must make to earn not only Belinda’s respect, but his own. I have a weakness for leonine heroes (Maybe it’s the Leo influence), and from the beginning Nicholas is described as a lordly lion in looks and attitude. I found him an immensely appealing character. And I loved the ending which brought not only the defeat of the villain and the inauguration of the HEA but also the avoidance of what easily could have become a Big Misunderstanding of dismaying proportions.
Guhrke has a gift for creating fully realized characters with rich interior lives and placing them in situations that satisfy the expectations of romance readers. She does it again with this novel. If you have enjoyed Guhrke’s Bachelor Girl or Abandoned at the Altar series, you will find this one to your taste. The American connection gives it a slightly different feel, which should add to the interest for some readers.
The hero and heroine of the next book in the series are introduced in the first book, the Duke and Duchess of Margrave, She is the former Edith Ann Jewell, and their marriage with husband and wife living on separate continents represents Belinda’s “most colossal failure” as a matchmaker. How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days will be released April 29, 2014. I can’t wait to read it. I recommend you read When the Marquess Met His Match soon so that you can join me in eagerly anticipating Book 2.
I love Regency-set historicals, but I am happy to see more romance novels with Victorian and Edwardian settings and even later. Are you strictly a Regency reader? Do you prefer variety? Or are you indifferent to historical period so long as you like the story?