The Marrying Man
by Kathryn June
(Zebra, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6784-4
***
Did you know that research has determined that men are much more likely to fall in love at first sight than women? Did you know also that when men decide that the time is right, they often set out to get married with a certain single mindedness? Well, Kathryn June may or may not have read the social scientific work that demonstrates these seemingly counter-intuitive facts, her hero, Sir St. John Pennyworthy, epitomizes this kind of behavior.

St. John is thirty years old. He has spent his twenties making his fortune in trade. He has always wanted to marry and now he just knows the time is right. At his good friendís wedding, he espies a lovely bridesmaid. He decides on the spot that she is the girl for him. He arranges an introduction to Miss Alethea Pierce and immediately proposes.

Alethea is, not surprisingly, stunned by St. Johnís proposal. She can only conclude that she is the butt of some prank and respectfully declines. But even had she taken the proposal seriously, she would have declined. Alethea has just discovered that the man she thought she loved, the less than Honorable Bertram Felton, is not the man she thought he was. Alethea has decided that marriage is not for her.

St. John accepts Aletheaís rejection with some dismay; he really believed that she was the woman for him. But, undeterred, he proceeds to seek a bride. Unfortunately, his luck is not good. For one reason or another, all the young ladies to whom he pays suit either prove to be unsuitable or reject him.

However, Alethea reappears in his life in a most unusual fashion. She is being hounded by Bertram who refuses to accept her wish to cut the connection. St. John comes to her rescue on more than one occasion. The two become acquainted and become friends. But Alethea has already rejected St. John and he has accepted her refusal. Moreover, she has shared with him her determination not to marry. Thus, it never occurs to the baronet to ask her once again nor does he realize that his feelings for Alethea have actually grown and deepened since his first infatuation.

St. John is an interesting and unusual hero, to say the least. His birth makes him a member of the ton, but his association with trade means he is not quite top drawer. His sometimes quirky behavior has led some of his friends and family to assume that the is, to use a modern term, a bit spacy. But Alethea soon realizes that he simply has an unusual sense of humor that passes over the heads of many. She also realizes that he has a kind heart and comes to regret her earlier rejection.

There is a great deal of gentle humor in The Marrying Man. St. John is certainly an unusual and enjoyable hero, a true beta male. Alethea is not quite as interesting a character. Their relationship - I hesitate to call it a romance, exactly since the two remain unaware of their feelings for each other until the end - is pleasant.

Why am I not recommending The Marrying Man? Unfortunately June makes a few too many of those errors that take me out of the story like calling the hero Sir Pennyworthy or having secondary characters hie off to Italy for their honeymoon at the height of Napoleonís Continental System when all of Europe was closed to British travelers. These kinds of mistakes invariably decrease my enjoyment of a story.

If you are less of historical fuss-budget than I am, you might well enjoy The Marrying Man more than I did. Certainly, the story and its hero are just enough out of the ordinary to make them interesting.

--Jean Mason


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