Married by Midnight by Julianne MacLean
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ORDER A COPY: Married By Midnight (A Pembroke Palace Novella)
Publishing Date: July 15, 2012
EBook: 146 pages
Rating: 5 stars
For seven years, Lord Garrett Sinclair– the ruggedly handsome illegitimate son of the Duke of Pembroke–has been traveling abroad with no intention of ever returning home to Pembroke Palace… until his father commands that he must marry by Christmas in order to thwart a family curse or lose his inheritance forever. Haunted by a tragic accident that has hardened his soul, Garrett entrusts his brothers to seek out a bride who will agree to a marriage in name only. Her reward? A sizable share of his inheritance–payable immediately after the wedding night.
Lady Anne Douglas has been ruined by scandal and disowned by her father. Facing a life of poverty and spinsterhood, she leaps at the generous terms of the marriage contract to ensure her independence. But the charade of a two-week engagement proves more of a challenge than either anticipated when they cannot resist the intoxicating lure of the marriage bed. Anne knows they will part ways after the wedding. Will she dare risk her heart for two weeks of pleasure in the arms of an irresistible rogue? Or will her surrender become her undoing after a most unexpected turn of events mere hours before the wedding?
This was a wonderfully written short story. I have not had the pleasure of reading any Julianne’s novels before but I certainly will try to find the time now, especially the original three Pembroke Palace stories. She has a very pleasant writing style, and I enjoyed her characters.
This fourth installment of her series is a sweet romantic short story and just the perfect in-between novel selection to break up all the thrillers and convoluted story plots that I have been reading lately. You didn’t need to have read the three prior novels to keep up.
Married by Midnight is simply a story about two people who didn’t believe they would find or deserve a HEA and were willing to accept an in-name-only, business proposal marriage. Garrett needed to fulfill his father’s terms in order to save the family’s fortune and a scandal kept Anne from having any real marriage prospects and this sham marriage would offer her financial protection and a husband’s name.
When Garret returns to his childhood home after seven years’ absence to marry the woman chosen by his family, he is pleasantly surprised by the woman he meets, and Anne, who has been shunned by her own family, fits in wonderfully with Garrett’s family and both find they have greatly missed that connection to family. While they are enjoying their time with the family, Garrett and Anne begin to build a connection with each other, until they both determine that they want more than just a sham marriage.
It is budding romance, pure and simple, no need for lurking scoundrels, scheming mistresses or disapproving dowers.
Usually short stories feel rushed or leave me feeling short changed. This was perfectly paced and left me feeling happy. I would recommend grabbing a copy to have for the next time you are between novels or when you need a nice pick-me-up story after a bad day (or worse, after a bad novel).
Received a review copy from the author. Thank you.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Garrett asked as he leaned back and rested an arm along the back of the seat. “You seem almost baffled.”
“I am merely surprised by your openness this morning, compared to last night,” she replied. “You seem like a different person.”
He shrugged. “I suppose now that I’ve met you, I am able to relax a little”
He considered her questions for a moment. “I think I was worried that any lady who would agree to a plot such as this would have to be unpleasant in some way, or undesirable, or perhaps possess some secret ulterior motive. I feared she might want to lure me into a real marriage. That has happened to me before, but you don’t strike me as any of those things.”
Anne spoke honestly. “I told you last night that I am here to gain my independence and freedom, not another yoke around my neck.”
His eyes narrowed, as if he wanted to look deeper into her character and study her. Find out why. Perhaps test her. “Yes, but some women say that when they don’t really mean it. Deep down, what they really want is a fairy tale.”
The sleigh jostled them about as they glided over a small knoll where patches of earth showed through the snow. Anne pulled one hand from her muff and pressed her winter bonnet more firmly onto her head. “It’s not that I don’t believe in fairy tales,” she said, “or want true love for myself one day. I do. It’s just not something I felt I could attain.”
She inclined her head a fraction, surprised that he had to ask the question. “Because I have been living a rather reclusive life in Yorkshire. I haven’t been to London in years and had no reason to expect or hope that anything would change.”
She was acutely aware of his arm resting along the back of the seat while he listened to her explanation.
“Did no one tell you about me?” she asked. “Do you not know why your brothers came to me with this proposition?”
He drew in a deep breath and let it out. “I must confess I left everything in their capable hands and preferred to be kept out of it, in the dark. But now that I have met you, I cannot help but wonder why you have chosen this path. You are not unattractive, Lady Anne. To the contrary you are a beautiful and charming young woman, and you seem to have your wits about you. I didn’t expect them to find anyone quite like you.”
Feeling unexpectedly flattered by his words of appreciation—especially after his behavior the night before—Anne shoved her fists back into her muff and hoped the cold air was enough to hide the rush of heat that suffused her cheeks.