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The Pursuit of Marriage

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When We Meet Again

 
Let It Be Love
by Victoria Alexander
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 006-059320-2
***
Another entry in the Effington series, this story introduces the four friends of Jonathon, the Marquis of Helmsley in addition to providing him his love interest. Let It Be Love provides an engaging reading experience but suffers from too many barriers thrown in that add pages but donít enhance the story.

Fiona Fairchild was raised in Italy and she remains unwed at age 25. Her father, fearing she would never marry, set up a betrothal to a son of a friend from America. Fiona comes to England (her roots) to see if she can find a man she wants to marry versus one chosen for her. She is desperate because the will also stipulates that she must marry first, or the money set aside for the dowries of her three stepsisters will be put in trust until she does marry.

Years ago, Fiona saw Jonathon engage in a tryst at the Effington Christmas Eve party and she fantasized about being that woman. This tryst is something Jonathon has made an annual event. He finds a willing woman and joins her in the library for torrid kisses, stopping short of scandal. This year, his friend, Oliver Northcort, who happens to be Fionaís cousin, sends her to the library. He thinks Fiona would make the perfect bride for Jonathon, who has always claimed he wants intelligence, beauty and challenge in his future wife. When Fiona confronts Jonathon and proposes marriage, Jonathon assumes this is a joke from Oliver. Thinking her real situation sounds far-fetched; he agrees to marry her as a way to get back at Oliver. He is stumped when he realizes that she is serious and now he has to get out of this mistaken betrothal.

The tale gets a little more convoluted. When Fiona wonít accept money to make up the dowries and remove her requirement for marriage, Jonathon proposes a business opportunity that will make her rich instead. This proposition involves collaboration on an erotic myth with Jonathonís words (he thinks himself a writer, albeit unpublished) and Fionaís drawings of naked men. When she was in Italy, she studied art and has a portfolio of everything from fruits to landscapes to statues to live naked men. This ruse provides the time to get to know each other and become friends while preparing the manuscript. They also fall in love. But they complicate things by denying their feelings.

Barrier after barrier is thrown in the way. A few deceptions, denial of their feelings, and assumptions about motives are just a few things that keep them from acknowledging their burgeoning romance. Jonathon talks a good line about being ready for marriage to the right woman, but becomes a coward when confronted with the possibility. Fiona is so wrapped up in making sure no one is marrying her because they feel responsible or are not completely willing, she is blind to many actions that demonstrate she has Jonathon wrapped around her little finger.

Alexander has written a unique story line that allows the reader to get to know the two main characters while building up sexual tension. How can one not be turned on with each other when writing erotic scenes between gods and nubile nymphs? The fact that this is Regency England and Fionaís cousin actually allows the activity must be forgotten for this to work. But Fiona is a nice woman and wants to fall in love and marry for love. Jonathon is a nice man and knows he must eventually marry for his title. He is looking for a woman he can like as well as enjoy in bed. They find their mates in each other but their stubbornness and unwillingness to risk their hearts keep them from having conversations that would clear up the misunderstandings.

The four men who are Jonathonís friends all seem like traditional rakes yet with a much softer side than many; these men will be beta heroes rather than alpha men. The sisters are minor characters. Another interesting twist is that Jonathonís previous lover, a widow named Lady Chester, provides the mentorship both Fiona and Jonathon need.

While there is not a lot of sexual activity, there is a lot of conversation about sex because of the nature of the book they are writing. Being part of a series is almost an afterthought, as very few characters from previous stories make an appearance.

There are many distinctive characteristics that separate this story from many others, but alas, there are the silly misconceptions that counterbalance those. Let It Be Love is enjoyable but ultimately rather ordinary.

--Shirley Lyons


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