As described in the back cover of the book, The Bargain is a revised version of Mary Jo Putney’s regency entitled The Would-Be Widow. Although the theme of a wedding by the deathbed has been explored in other romances, none is more memorable or deftly written as this one.
Lady Jocelyn Kendall has until her twenty-fifth birthday to marry or else a stipend will be settled upon her. However generous that stipend is, it doesn’t match to what she already has and will continue to own upon her marriage – not that Jocelyn is greedy, but she feels that her wretched aunt, who is married to the present Earl of Cromarty, is undeserving of her inheritance. Only several weeks away from fulfilling her father’s will, she mulls over the few options that she has, still determined to keep what her father, in his will, tries to take away from her.
A solution presents itself when she visits a friend of her aunt’s at the hospital for soldiers. Upon hearing that Major David Lancaster is dying, she proposes to give his only living relative, his younger sister, an annuity if he would marry her. However, David didn’t exactly die as predicted….
Ms. Putney’s subtlety in crafting a romance is first rate. Jocelyn’s character is so multi-faceted that it’s easy for a reader to identify with her – she can be impulsively mean when provoked, and equally thoughtful to people of different ranks, from servant to commoner to nobility. She’s what any good woman would want to be, if one had a lot of money! David is likewise admirable; he’s neither an alpha male nor a completely nice guy. With such well-drawn characters, and a memorable plot, it was easy to pass the hours ensconced with this book.
Clearly, Mr. Putney’s talent lies in creating relationships that stem in friendship, in which the hero and heroine engage in enlightening conversations. Even the secondary characters are interestingly necessary to advance the romance and plot along smoothly. But what is most satisfying is the ending, one of the more rewarding happily ever afters ever written!
The Bargain is definitely part of my keeper shelf!