Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney

Mismatched lovers and unexpected attraction catch fire in this timeless novel by the New York Times bestselling author and legend in historical romance Mary Jo Putney. . .
Forced to wed to keep her inheritance, independent Lady Jocelyn Kendal finds an outrageous solution: she proposes marriage to Major David Lancaster, an officer dying from his Waterloo wounds. In return for making her his wife, she will provide for his governess sister. But after the bargain is struck and the marriage is made, the major makes a shocking, miraculous recovery. Though they agree to an annulment, such matters take time. . .time enough for David to realize he is irrevocably in love with his wife.

Haunted by her past, Jocelyn refuses to trust the desire David ignites in her. She never counted on a real husband, least of all one who would entice her to be a real wife. But some bargains are made to be broken--and his skilled courtship is impossible to resist. . .
The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney is the re-release of a book originally released in 1989 under the title The Would be Widow.

Jocelyn Kendal must marry immediately in order to keep her inheritance and independence. Major David Lancaster is slowly dying in a hospital ward from wounds received at Waterloo and is concerned about his young sister's future. Jocelyn makes a shocking proposal to David, if he marries her so she can keep her inheritance, she will endow his sister and take care of her after his imminent death. He accepts the bargain.  However after a miraculous recovery from his wounds the bargain becomes a problem for both of them. David finds himself falling in love with his wife and begins a courtship, while Jocelyn refuses to acknowledge there is more than just friendship between them.

There's more to this story though. From the beginning Jocelyn had her eye on the Duke of Canover as the man who would be her future husband and/or lover, but since time was running out and she could not bring him up to scratch, she settled for David instead. The Duke of Canover only makes a few appearances, but it is Jocelyn's musings and the decisions she makes involving him that affected this story for me. In many ways, her deepest thoughts are about him and not David. Jocelyn spent so much time avoiding her feelings for David that this reader never really made that emotional connection between them, at least from her side, until almost the end of the story. David's feelings for Jocelyn are quite palpable throughout.

Jocelyn also comes off as a cold and rather calculating woman toward the beginning of the book, and frankly it took a while before I even liked her as a character. However, Putney develops Jocelyn and as the real woman emerges there is warmth and character growth by the end of the story.

And what of the secondary characters? There's Sally, David's sister, who plays a major role in this romance and ends up having her own secondary romance in the story. I loved her personality, loyalty and inner strength, as well as her romance with the talented doctor Ian Kinlock.

Although The Bargain is not my favorite historical romance by Mary Jo Putney, there are still parts of it to admire. I liked the way Putney made me reconsider both Jocelyn and Sally's characters after an iffy beginning, and David is an admirable character from beginning to end. I love the secondary characters in this book, from the footman who gets to bring his brother home from the hospital to recover from war wounds, to Sally and Ian's romance. And after all that, I ended up rather intrigued by the Duke of Candover's character at the end.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Zebra; Reprint edition April 5, 2011
Source: I won this book at Moonlight to Twilight Blog from MsM!
Grade: C+

Visit Mary Jo Putney here.


  1. I remember reading this ages ago as it was originally published. I know I liked it then but now I think I want to read it again and see how much I remember. I read her blog over at Word Wenches about how she re-wrote it. The Duke of Candover appears later as hero in one of her historicals. That was a good book!

  2. Phyl this is the first time I read this book, although I've also seen some comments around about the fact that there's a difference between this version and the original? It would be interesting to know what's different about the story. Candover is the hero of Petals in the Storm, right?

  3. I believe Petals in the Storm is Candover's book. The heroine is not your typical duchess material. A different sort of Regency. Here's a link to Putney's comments about re-writing The Bargain: http://tinyurl.com/3p9zc2t. Mostly she seems to have tightened the story; it's the difference between her being a new author at the time and more experienced now as I understand it.

  4. I haven't read an MJP book in a while, this sounds nice but I don't know about the heroine.


  5. I don't think I ever read this one although I used to read her a lot. The trope is a familiar one but I've always liked it so I might give this one a try. Thanks for the review Hils. :)

  6. Lovely review Hils. I loved this book. It had two of my favourite tropes - marriage of convenience and estate rehabilitation. I loved Sally & Ian's secondary romance too, and both the Duke of Candover and Jocelyn's male friend - the soldier with the leg wound - were intriguing.

    I think the latter also has a book of his own. Another MJP book I love is The Rake - have you read that?

  7. Phyl, thanks for confirming the title of the Candover story and for that link! It's always interesting when authors make changes to their stories.

    Alex, it had been a while for me too, but I do like MJP. The heroine changes and that's one of the things I liked by the end.

    Leslie, if you like MJP and the trope, you'll like this book. Hope you enjoy it. PS: isn't that a great cover? I like it more than the original ones I've seen around.

    Orannia, I'm so glad you enjoyed this book. I also love the marriage of convenience. David's friend! The soldier! I loved him too, and agree that he also gets his own book. I have to check that out again because I think I have it at home. My favorite book by MJP is One Perfect Rose, although I know The Rake is her #1 for many. :D

  8. I haven't read One Perfect Rose - worth a try?

    And The Rake was my first MJP and probably my favourite, but then it had estate rehabilitation all over it *grin*

  9. Hmmm, for some reasons, I'm not a fan of Zebra's books :(

    Guess I'm going to skip on this one. I've come across a calculative heroine not long ago - they really are hard to warm up to.

  10. Orannia, I hope you enjoy One Perfect Rose! You DO enjoy estate rehabilitation stories... One of Kresly Cole's historicals, If You Desire, has an estate rehab story line, you might place that one in your list for future reference.

    Nath, that perspective for the heroine changes in the story, it's a first impression. This is an old book by MJP and a re-print, I don't know if you've read her works in the past? Anyway, yeah... not all books are meant for all of us. :D

  11. Thank you! Off to see if the library has One Perfect Rose and If You Desire :)

  12. I thought this was such an interesting premise. Really liked the book, but I did wish that she would have realized sooner that it was right to be with David.

  13. Lori, I agree! I think of she had those intimate thoughts about David, that emotional connection would have been "felt" and then the story would have been a powerful one. As it was, I think it was left to late in the story. But yes, definitely an interesting premise with some excellent secondary characters. :D


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