I read ‘A Marriage of Inconvenience‘ first, though it was the second published. Lucy Jones is a poor relation, forced to accept charity from her wealthy relatives. She’s perfected the art of being inconspicuous; anything to please her relatives and keep them from removing their support of her and her brothers. When her cousin Sebastian, whom she’s always fancied, proposes marriage, she’s delighted to accept, but the family wants it kept secret.
She meets James Wright-Gordon, Viscount Selsley (and brother to Anna, mentioned below), and when the families come together for the marriage of Lucy’s cousin Portia, Sebastian falls for Anna. Suddenly Lucy’s quiet and ordered life is in disarray. When she’s caught in a compromising position with James, a marriage is swiftly arranged. However, family secrets will out, and the result could damage everything.
The relationship between Lucy and Selsley starts off quite naturally, during a chance encounter, and it continues throughout the novel. I thought them very well matched, and became quite fond of Selsley’s gentlemanly manner. Enough so that I almost immediately wished for Lucy to have the courage to break off her engagement to Sebastian. I felt angry on Lucy’s behalf, having to put up with miserable relatives (especially her cousin Portia), and I hoped that things would turn out for the best. Even after marriage, new difficulties arise, and James and Lucy have to figure out how to make things work.
The story of the Wright-Gordons and Arringtons continues with the novel ‘The Sergeant’s Lady’. If you want to read in the story’s chronological order, this would be your second book. However, if you prefer to read in publication order, you’ll want to read this before ‘A Marriage of Inconvenience.’
In ‘The Sergeant’s Lady‘, Anna Wright-Gordon is following the drum, joining the English army under Wellington as they pursue and challenge Napoleon. If you’re a reader (or watcher) of the Sharpe series, you’ll likely be familiar with the setting and the war. She’s married a cavalry officer, Sebastian Arrington, and has no choice but to accompany him. When her domineering husband dies, all she wants to do is leave Spain and return to her home. She meets a sergeant, Will Atkins, and their attraction grows. However, she is a viscount’s daughter, and he’s a commoner, an innkeeper’s son. All common sense says that they ought to keep to their social stations, but of course, if they did that, we wouldn’t have a story to read.
The drama starts with Anna’s husband’s death and doesn’t end for another ninety thousand words. The book was so engaging that I was hard-pressed to put it down. Anna is a likable and realistic character. One can hardly believe that she’s the daughter of a viscount, given her ability to adapt to the hard conditions of following the drum. Due to her awful husband, she hasn’t much confidence in certain respects, but she manages to survive a great deal.
I loved the attraction and romance between her and Will Atkins. War (and other life-threatening situations) puts things in true perspective: social class differences really don’t matter very much when you’re on the field of battle, or escaping from French soldiers. These societal constructs only start to matter once one is back in safety. My favourite scenes were ones that dealt with these issues, whether Anna and Will were fighting their mutual attraction, or trying to decide whether they wanted to challenge the status quo.
I’d highly recommend both books; whether you read them in order of publication (or not), they’re fantastic.