|Victoria Alexander: The Marriage Lesson|
(Paperback), ISBN 0-380-81820-5
In The Marriage Lesson, Victoria Alexander presents us with a full and rich middle, which, in several places, turns into a delightful romp -- in short, an altogether pleasurable read. However, to get to that middle, one must deal first with the slow beginning, stuffed chock full with back-story, then suffer through a disappointing ending that allows the farcical antics to go on for a tad too long.
Our hero, Thomas Effington, the Marquess of Helmsley and future Duke of Roxborough, has been dumped on. Through a rather long-winded set of circumstances, he finds himself saddled with the responsibilities associated with providing a season to three sisters. As Helmsley does not particularly welcome those responsibilities, he decides the answer lies in marrying the three sisters off as quickly as possible.
However, the dumpees -- er, the sisters, decide otherwise. The oldest, our heroine, Lady Marianne Shelton, came to London to experience adventure, not marriage. With her sisters' help, she concocts a plan to finance her independent future and begins to pen "The [Somewhat Embellished] Absolutely True Adventures of a Country Miss in London" for one of the London weekly papers.
Basing her wicked hero, "Lord W," on Thomas, her protector for the season, Marianne's stories quickly become the talk of the ton. Looking for fodder to feed her stories, Marianne convinces Thomas of her desire not only to "experience life," but also of her determination to find a willing suitor if he will not provide such "experiences." Mindful of the responsibilities thrust upon him, and ever the protector, Thomas agrees to give Marianne "lessons" in such "experiences."
Eventually, of course, the lessons go a bit too far, and Thomas finds out that, true to her word, Marianne will not marry him merely because he compromised her honor. Both Thomas and Marianne must then discover the true meaning of love in The Marriage Lesson.
As stated earlier, the middle provides several amusing moments. I especially liked the way Thomas turns into a serious prude when called upon to act as the "protector" of Marianne and her sisters, as well as Marianne's intelligence and her ability to quickly turn tables on the worldly marquess. Alexander also creates several enjoyable secondary characters who add considerable depth to the story and help provide some of its more comic elements. Unfortunately, the misunderstanding at the end overstays its welcome. Yes, Thomas is a bit dense but not that dense.) Nonetheless, The Marriage Lesson makes for an enjoyable and lighthearted summer read.
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