The strength of Stephanie Laurens’ novels has always been her leading men. The heroines of her stories, however interesting or willful they might be, exist only to stand in for swooning readers, letting them vicariously interact with the gentlemanly predators of the Regency period Ms. Laurens has created. A Convenient Marriage, a pair of full-length novels bound together, is no exception, and despite being part of her earlier writings, and its two main characters, Jason, Duke of Eversleigh, and Jack Lester, infuse a whole new intensity into the word prowling. In them you can see the beginnings of her most well known heroes, the Cynsters.
The first novel, The Reasons for Marriage, tells the story of Jason, a duke in need of a suitable wife. Coldly, with a list of impossible requirements in mind to ensure that his wife will not get in the way of his rakish existence, he sets out to Lester Hall, where his friends Jack and Harry are giving a party — and where their sister, Lenore, waits for him. One look at Lenore dealing capably with dissipated rakes of all kinds and Jason decides that she is the wife he needs. Unfortunately for him, Lenore has other plans for herself, ones that do not include marriage and will need a little…convincing.
Lenore is an admirable, intelligent, strong-willed heroine, and completely sympathetic in her reasons for refusing the Duke. In fact, I sympathized with her quite legitimate concerns so completely that I was still a little angry when the book ended and Jason still had not truly acknowledged her fears. (Sometimes, there is such a thing as too much caveman, and this was one of those times). But I enjoyed their mutually rocky paths to love and especially enjoyed all the convincing going on.
The second novel, A Lady of Expectations, follows the story of Lenore’s brother Jack. Jack essentially falls in love at first sight with a sweet girl named Sophie and his feelings are quickly returned. The problem lies in Jack’s fortune — not in that he does not have one, because he does, but because no one thinks he does, including Sophie. She is not rich either and decides, in her sweet and noble way, that she cannot keep Jack down when he has people to support, and so must let him go so he can marry an heiress. She assumes Jack is aware of her reasons and has accepted them, because Jack begins to keep his distance from her socially. Of course, that isn’t the reason at all, but Jack has been warned by her family to let her have her first Season before he rushes her decision, and so the two of them are apart and yearning for most of the book.
It is a different tone than most of Ms. Laurens’ stories, and perhaps that it is was why I found it less interesting than I should have. The slow beginning did not help either, but it was Jack’s inability to be Jack left me feeling a little bereft. Laurens might have felt it too, considering the brief scene tacked on the ending that seems almost as if she thought she had to fulfill some sort of love scene requirement. Nevertheless, Jack is fantastic and for that matter, so is Harry, (where’s his book?) so I’m not really objecting too much.
This book is possibly out of print but if you can find it, or can harass a publisher into re-releasing them, I recommend reading it, especially if you are a big fan of the Cynster males.