2008, Americana Romance (1890s U.S. [Newport, Rhode Island] and England)
Zebra, $6.99, 341 pages, Amazon ASIN 1420103784
While looking over the new romance books at my local store, my eye fell on one titled Marry Christmas. "Ick," I thought, "what a terrible title for a book!" But because the majority of historical romances have titles that are either terrible or forgettable, I forged ahead, particularly since I liked The Perfect Wife, another of Jane Goodger's books. The back blurb of this newer book indicated that the story features an American heiress marrying a penniless duke. "Horray," said I, "a turn of the century romance!". Alas, the blurb was the best part of the book.
Elizabeth Cummings is an extraordinarily beautiful young woman who happens to be the richest young heiress in the United States. Her socialite mother Alva, has impressed on her that she must marry into the British peerage and marry no one lower than a duke. Alva is strong willed, bullies her family and not above slapping Elizabeth when she speaks out of turn. Elizabeth fancies herself in love with a young man named Henry but her mother will hear none of it and threatens to have him killed.
Randall Blackmore is the Duke of Bellingham. A younger son, he never thought heíd have the title. Rand joined the army where he served in the Life Guard. He planned to make the military his career, marry a British girl and eventually settle down. But when his older brother died, Rand became the new duke, and discovered he was impoverished and in debt. Randís brother spent freely and stripped the estate of everything he could, leaving the family seat Bellwood in shambles and its tenants in want. Rand must have money, and the only place to get it is America, where families like the Cunninghams are happy to trade money for titles. So with his good friend Simon Earl of Wellesley (whose title is botched worse than anything I have ever seen), Rand sets sail for Newport to woo Elizabeth Cummings.
The American heiress who marries into the British peerage fascinates me and Iíve read many books about the subject including Consuelo Vanderbiltís book, The Glitter and the Gold and Amanda Stuartís book Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt, which is excellent. Marry Christmas takes many of its elements from the story of the marriage of Consuelo and the Duke of Marlborogh, but gives Rand and Elizabethís story a happy ending.
I had high hopes for this book. First of all, itís Americana, a sub-genre I love, but one that has been MIA for far too long Ė and as I said, I love the American heiress/British peer story. Sadly though, the characters failed to engage my interest. Elizabeth was alternately silly and sensible with the emphasis mostly on silly. She clung to her infatuation with Henry even when she began to realize that Rand was actually a nice man and that he loved her. Elizabeth even wore a necklace that Henry had given her on her wedding night with Rand. Most of this couples' problems could have been settled with a frank talk, but then the book would have been a short story. Rand was a more sympathetic character, but I could not understand why he fell in love with Elizabeth since it took until almost the very end of the book for her to come to her senses.
Elizabeth has a friend, Maggie, who becomes close to Randís good friend Simon, and I think she will have her own story. I hope by then that Simonís title will be given correctly. He is introduced at a ball as Lord Hollings, the Earl of Wellesley and after I read that, I had to rush for my smelling salts. His correct title is Lord Wellesley, not Lord Hollings. Earls are Lord Title not Lord Lastname. Get it right, people!!!
Iíll chalk Marry Christmas up as a disappointing read. Pity, Jane Goodger can write excellent Americana romances and has done so in the past. I still have The Perfect Wife on my comfort read shelf and can recommend it heartily, unlike this one...give it a pass.
-- Ellen Micheletti
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