Debbie Raleigh has a penchant for trilogies. A Proper Marriage
is the first of a new trio of books featuring the lovable country
clergyman, Vicar Humbly. Humbly is about to retire from his living
after a long career taking care of his people and spreading love and
wisdom wherever he went. But before he can comfortably remove to his
cottage and devote himself to his books, he must make sure that three
couples whom he recently married find happiness.
Adele Morrow and Adam Drake had made an arranged marriage. Addy’s
parents, a ramshackle couple to say the least, had run through their
money. Unless Addy married her grandfather’s choice, her family would
face financial ruin. Adam, raised to do his duty, accepted his own
grandfather’s choice of a mate. Now these two seemingly ill-matched
people have to make a go of their marriage. Vicar Humbly is convinced
that they are making a hash of matrimony, so he hies off to London to
set things straight.
Addy and Adam are indeed opposites. She was raised by parents who took
unconventional behavior to a new high. She enjoyed much more freedom
than most girls of her time and class, perhaps too much freedom. Adam
was raised by a demanding father who instilled in him a high sense of
duty and propriety, perhaps too much of the latter. When he married the
free-spirited Addy, he insisted that she behave with utmost propriety
herself. Engaged in important work for the War Office, he has little
time for his lovely bride. Needless to say, Addy resents her husband
and the life she is forced to live.
The arrival of Vicar Humbly forces both husband and wife to confront the
nature of their marriage and the fact that neither is happy with the way
their lives are going. His gentle interference convinces Adam that he
does not want a sober and proper wife and shows Addy that Adam’s
reliability is much preferable to the insecurity she had known in her
Both the heroine and the hero are well drawn characters. Addy has tried
to be the kind of wife she thinks Adam wants; after all, she and her
family owe him a great deal. But she has had to stifle her true self
and abandon her passion for painting. She is not happy. Adam is, I’m
afraid to say, a typical clueless male. He believes that, given her
unconventional upbringing, that he has to keep Addy on a short leash.
Yet he doesn’t understand why his wife is so unhappy or his marriage is
so unsatisfactory. He found the old Addy attractive, yet set out to
Thank heavens for Vicar Humbly. Thanks to his clever schemes, both Addy
and Adam begin to understand and appreciate each other. Not even the
arrival of Addy’s parents or the schemes of a predatory rake can shake
their new found love.
A Proper Marriage breaks no new ground. It is a pretty typical
Regency romance. But it is an entertaining tale of how two intelligent
and attractive people can get marriage so wrong and then discover how it
really ought to work. I will be looking for Vicar Humbly’s next adventure.