I am somewhat conflicted as to my opinion about this book. On one hand, I adore Anne Gracie. She publishes only once a year and I’m always biting my nails, waiting for more. Her Merridew series (with the exception of the final book) features some of my favorite romance novels of all time and I really liked her Chance series. I love her writing. But I’m not sure I loved this book.
Marry in Haste kicks off a new series and, to be honest, it spends a lot more time setting up the universe and the lead heroines of the rest of the books than it does with Emmaline and Cal. I guess that makes sense in some ways.
Cal is a soldier, fighting the loose ends of the Napoleonic Wars, and inherits the earldom unexpectedly. He’s tracking down an assassin who is responsible for the death of a close friend, and for most of the book, this occupies most of his attention. But now he has to take on his younger half-sisters and a secret niece his brother abandoned. He decides he needs someone to take care of those things so he can find his assassin and return to the Continent to continue in the army. That’s where Emmaline comes in. Emm is a teacher at the girls’ former school with her own tragic backstory and agrees to a marriage for Cal’s convenience.
Marriage of convenience stories are some of my favorite, so that plays into what I like about this book. Emm and Cal don’t have a traditional conflict, not one that drives the story. This is basically the story of a lonely soldier who didn’t grow up around family and has no idea what to do about all the women in his life. Emm helps him figure out how to be, well, human.
This does a good job of setting of the universe — I’m very interested in stories for Rose, Lily, and George, the younger sisters and niece. I really like Emm (we’ll talk about Cal in the spoilers) and I’m glad where the story ends up. The big problem I have is that the romance, such as it is, pretty much doesn’t start until they’re married and that’s about page 146 in my book. Halfway. The first half of the book spends more time with Cal more than Emm — she’s in the prologue, and then basically disappears for fifty pages.
It’s a sweet book that’s light on plot and romance, but does a really good job with character development. Most Anne Gracie fans won’t be disappointed.
The first time I read this was about two years ago when it came out, and I think I’ve read it maybe once since (when the second book came out). The third time through, I realized that I’m not sure how much I really like Cal.
He’s a typical alpha hero, raised without a mother, sent away to school at the age of seven and then straight into the army at seventeen. He has, apparently, no emotional development, and spends a lot of time barking orders. Cal is flustered easily by the women in his love, and Emm gradually breaks down his barriers to learn how deeply he loves.
That’s all great except Cal is mostly an asshole. Even when he’s not. He talks about women as “females” and there’s this line after Cal learns Emm is not a virgin that “He wanted to throttle her. He wanted to beat her. He wanted to take her back to bed and make love to her until…”
Listen. Listen. I get that Regency Britain was a different time and place and that 90% of husbands expected their wives to be virgins on the wedding night, or at least they did according to the tropes of the genre. What I really do not want to read in the year of our Lord 2019 (or in 2017) is an author describing a man’s confusion and anger over his wife’s lack of virginity as "wanting to beat her.” Because now that’s in my head as a thing he might think is okay.
And Cal continues to be a giant dick for another day over this thing that happened ages before he met Emm and even after she makes a very good argument that there was literally no opportunity to tell him this thing, and she honestly didn’t think it mattered based on their agreement. He accepts that. And still gets annoyed she won’t tell him all the dirty details.
And I guess I could have lived with most of that plot if we’d just had one moment where Cal realized he had no right to Emm’s sexual history. That it was a double standard. Just something where he realized how he treated her that first night was horrid.
He spent the rest of the book coming back from that and barely makes it. And then of course, we have this weird ending where the assassin Cal has been tracking shoots Emm, and falls out of the tree and dies. Cal tells Emm he loves her, and then she’s just fine. It’s…not really dramatic. There’s no suspense. I’m not sure why Emm needs to be shot.
This is a nice book, but I don’t love the hero and the romance is a bit underdeveloped. I do love Emm, however, and she makes the book worth reading, even if you have to get past fifty pages of Cal.
Overall I am somewhat conflicted as to my opinion about this book. On one hand, I adore Anne Gracie. She publishes only once a year and I’m always biting my nails, waiting for more. Her Merridew ...