Blurb: Charity Barlow wished to marry for love. The rakish Lord Robert wishes only to tuck her away in the country once an heir is produced.
A country-bred girl, Charity Barlow suddenly finds herself married to a marquess, an aloof stranger determined to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself. She and Lord Robert have been forced by circumstances to marry, and she feels sure she is not the woman he would have selected given a choice.
The Marquess of St. Malin makes it plain to her that their marriage is merely for the procreation of an heir, and once that is achieved, he intends to continue living the life he enjoyed before he met her.
While he takes up his life in London once more, Charity is left to wander the echoing corridors of St. Malin House, when she isn’t thrown into the midst of the mocking Haute Ton.
Charity is not at all sure she likes her new social equals, as they live by their own rules, which seem rather shocking. She’s not at all sure she likes her new husband either, except for his striking appearance and the dark desire in his eyes when he looks at her, which sends her pulses racing.
Lord Robert is a rake and does not deserve her love, but neither does she wish to live alone.
Might he be suffering from a sad past? Seeking to uncover it, Charity attempts to heal the wound to his heart, only to make things worse between them.
Guest Post by Maggi Andersen:
What is it about "opposites attract" that makes writing and reading about these types of couples timeless? What was your favorite part about crafting your characters, Charity and Lord Robert, and is there one scene you felt was extra special? Why?
The attraction of opposites has been a plot device since Homer’s Odyssey.
Carl Yung believed that stories about heroes and heroines tap into universal emotions and feelings. He theorized that “humans have a kind of readiness to reproduce over and over again the same or similar mythical ideas.” And he constructed a series of personality archetypes from the Greek word archetypos, meaning “first of its kind.” In myths, legends, fairy tales, epic poems, novels and movies, protagonists that remain in our hearts and minds fit these archetypes.
The Reluctant Marquess is a marriage of convenience story about two strangers who come together out of necessity. Lord Robert and Charity, while attracted from the first, are each determined to live life on their own terms. Lord Robert is a spoiled rake has been enjoying life as a single man in London society, and Charity is a country-bred daughter of an academic new to the ton. They simply don’t understand each other at all.
Robert is a wounded hero, who has thumbed his nose at marriage and become a rake.
Charity comes from a happy home. She is a practical nurturer who believes in marriage. But it must be based on mutual respect and love.
While crafting these characters I enjoyed bringing them together to struggle with these differences. This is from the first chapter, when the hero and heroine meet.
What was wrong with this man? Slowly, Charity released a heavy sigh. She could barely contemplate such a thing as this, and yet he acted as though he’d solved all the problems of the world with fashion accessories.
She had hoped for a small stipend, but marriage! And to a complete stranger. She couldn’t!
Not for all the gowns and hats on earth. She straightened up in her chair and lifted her chin. Her words were clipped and precise, and she hoped beyond hope he would accept her decision gracefully. “I say no, Lord St Malin.”
“How disappointing,” he said quietly.
She gulped as his heavy-lidded eyes continued to study her from head to foot. She was uncomfortably aware that the mist had sent her hair into a riot of untidy curls, and she smoothed it away from her face with both hands as she glanced around the room. She tucked a muddy shoe out of sight beneath her gown and then forced herself to meet his gaze.
Might he like anything of what he saw? She loved that she had inherited her mother’s tiny waist, and she thought her hands pretty. His lordship’s gaze strayed to her breasts and remained there rather long. She sucked in a breath as her heart beat faster. When their eyes met did she detect a gleam of approval? It only made her more nervous.
There was another pause during which the grandfather clock struck the hour. Eight of the clock. Charity’s stomach gave a loud, protesting growl.
The embarrassing noise seemed to galvanize him into action.
His restless energy made her even wearier. “How can you make such a decision on an empty stomach? We will dine. And then you shall retire. Tomorrow, I’ll have your decision. Come, Felix. Are you too lazy to eat your dinner?” The dog seemed to understand his words, and jumped up, wagging its tail. He sounded so confident he would get his way.
Frustration and something close to anger threaded through her, but when the footman arrived to escort them to the dining room, she rose quickly, her mind already on the meal. It had been a long day, and her nervous stomach had only allowed her to eat a little breakfast.
Over sole in cream sauce followed by roast venison, which proved tender and delicious, the marquess explained his plan further. “If you decide to marry me, I shall leave you in peace.”
She pursed her lips. “I have already said no.”
“Then I shall convince you to change your mind.”
She grunted. “I highly doubt that. I can be very stubborn.”
His gaze drifted from her eyes to her mouth then dipped to the bodice of her dress. “I can be very persuasive.”
She felt heat blaze across her cheeks. “That I don’t doubt,” she murmured.
He laughed and tossed a piece of meat, and the dog caught it in his jaws. Swallowing the morsel with barely a chew, Felix danced on his back legs and begged for more. The marquess seized a knife and cut off another piece, and it went the way of the first. “That’s enough, Felix, off to the kitchen with you.” The dog dutifully trotted through a door opened by a footman. The marquess turned his attention back to her. “We need not always cohabit. I have property in London, Hertfordshire and Italy.”
“Italy?” Charity paused, a fork of artichoke halfway to her mouth. She had longed to visit Italy since reading her father’s copy of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet.
His long fingers toyed with the stem of the crystal wineglass.
“In fact, we need hardly meet.” His heavy-eyed gaze focused on her mouth, making her shift in her seat. “Although I do require an heir at some point, you understand.”
“Of course.” A shiver passed through her. “An heir.” She bit her lip, aware she sounded like the simpleton he must think her.
“Yes.” He tossed back the ruby wine in his glass. “And, by accounts, my uncle felt that, together, we should produce a fine one. He said as much in the will.” His speculative glance made her cheeks burn hotter.
“He did?” Her voice wobbled. She swallowed, and said determinedly, “I shall need time to give this er — proposal — a considerable amount of thought.”
His eyes twinkled with amusement. “I thought you said you were quite stubborn.”
“Do you want me to consider it or not?”
His mouth twitched as he tried to stifle a laugh. “I do indeed wish you to consider it.”
“Then I shall,” she said dropping her gaze. Had she sounded composed? A woman not to be trifled with? If she didn’t look at him it helped.
And here is another in Lord Robert’s point of view:
Robert strode up and down the cobbled courtyard in the cool air, his cheroot glowing in the dark. Being cramped in a carriage all day long didn’t suit his constitution. He grudgingly admitted that Charity’s lightness of spirit and her ability to cut through to the core of things made her company more pleasant than he expected. But he still felt thoroughly put out by what had been foisted on him. He yawned, hoping that stretching his legs would tire him. It was surprisingly difficult to sleep with the knowledge that his new wife was in bed a few steps away over the corridor. He should just go right in there and put this nonsense to an end. Deflower an unwilling virgin in an inn? What if she cried? She didn’t even have her maid to assist her.
Robert shook his head, stamped out the cheroot and made his way back to his room. Life would be more peaceful if he bowed to her wishes. He eased his tight shoulders. Providing her demands were within reason.
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About the author: Maggi Andersen is an Australian author. She lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales with her lawyer husband, their cat and the demanding wildlife. Maggi has two degrees, a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing. Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart were strong influences on her writing. She began her career when her children left the nest and writes in a variety of genres. Her historical romances are set in the Georgian, Regency and Victorian era.
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