“I am with child.” So Victoria, the Duchess of Moreland, announces her pregnancy to her husband. Under normal circumstances, it might have been a happy announcement, but not for Victoria and Spencer. You see, Victoria is uncertain whose child she carries.
In To Make a Marriage, Cheryl Ann Porter introduces an interesting problem. Victoria Redmond, lately of Savannah, Georgia, was a ruined woman, having “consummated” her relationship with a friend of her brother’s before there was any true relationship to consummate. In an effort to remove their daughter from the wagging tongues of Savannah society, the Redmonds whisked her to England where there were husbands to be found among the titled but poor upper crust. Victoria’s father looked for the best man he could find to wed his daughter, and thought he had found him in John Spencer Whitfield, the tenth Duke of Moreland.
The Duke knew that he was getting a bride who was less than chaste, but accepted it because he didn’t plan on loving her. His sole aim was to gain enough money to restore his estate and to get an heir. That Victoria was beautiful and spirited proved to be a pleasant bonus. However, he is furious that she may be pregnant by some other man and dictates that if the child is born without the Whitfield birthmark proving his lineage, both she and the child will be divorced from him and sent back to Savannah. Further, she is to spend her entire confinement at his country estate, while he remains in London.
When he jumps on a note from his estate manager saying he's needed in the country, he realizes that he's rushing home because he misses his headstrong young wife. Imagine his surprise when he arrives to find that she had left the previous week, destination unknown. Spencer is certain she has escaped to join her lover. He is at first crushed, then angry, then determined to bring her home again. So starts the chase to Savannah, where he finds that Victoria is caught up in a mystery. It’s in that lovely Southern city that Spencer comes to know his wife, and Victoria, her husband. When he finds that her activities are totally removed from what he had imagined and feared, and they begin to trust each other, they also begin To Make a Marriage.
This is a thoroughly appealing book. Both Victoria and Spencer are entirely believable, likeable characters. Their wit and then their love make the reader smile. However, they are outdone by Edward, Spencer’s cousin. He is a charming rogue who accompanies Spencer to Georgia, adding appeal and a great deal of humor to the story.
The mysteries—one concerning why Victoria was compelled to return home and the other regarding the parentage of her unborn child—are a bit contrived, but are solved satisfactorily and with a small, surprising twist. Ms. Porter spins a good tale as she shows us how To Make a Marriage, helping us realize that making a marriage can be quite fun, indeed.