Miss Charity Duncan has no illusions about Lord Anthony Earheart's proposal. The arrogant aristocrat has made it painfully clear what he wants: a wife who will enrage the father he despises and then disappear from his life. In exchange, Charity's family will receive the money they desperately need. But after Charity agrees to this mockery of matrimony, she soon discovers a startling fact: She has fallen for Anthony, and breaking their marriage vows may also break her heart.The summary is succinct and accurate up to a point, however there is so much more to this romance. Balogh's initial portrayal of Anthony is that of an arrogant, unpleasant, and bitter man whose lust for vengeance against his father has turned him into a cold and unfeeling human being, or as Charity later describes him, Polar ice.
After eight years of estrangement from his father and family, Anthony's father the Duke of Withingsby summons him home to formalize an engagement that he has been contracted to fulfill by his father, plus the duke is ill and possibly dying. Anthony's plan is to advertise for a governess so he can marry a woman below his station, just so he can humiliate his father and prove that he can and will live his own life on his terms. There are two more requirements this woman must meet, she must be a "mouse," and be willing to act as only a temporary wife, thereafter disappearing from Anthony's life. After a few interviews, Charity Duncan fits that role.
Charity Duncan is the daughter of a country gentleman. Unfortunately her father died leaving the family deeply indebted and in poverty. She is in London with her brother Phillip attempting to find a position as a governess hoping to help pay those debts. During her interview with Anthony Earheart when he proposes marriage, a yearly income for life, plus a house and carriage of her own instead of offering a job as a governess, Charity negotiates for more and agrees to his terms without asking questions. After all she figures she will take the money to take care of her family and although marriage is for life, it is fortunate that she won't have to live or deal with the disagreeable Earheart for more than a couple of weeks.
It is interesting to me that during this time these characters are strangers to each other, but Balogh also infuses a certain detachment onto the characters that is translated to the reader. I was certainly not emotionally involved with either Anthony or Charity at this point in the story. It is on the night of their wedding that things begin to change between the couple and also for the reader.
Plans to maintain a personal distance are unexpectedly changed when Anthony and Charity have to share a bed at a roadside inn and their marriage is consummated. This is a wonderful scene. Not necessarily because it is a sexual scene, although that's good enough, but because this scene sets up the building block for their future relationship. Anthony glimpses the real Charity and she in turn begins to learn her way around Anthony. They are both up front about what they want and need from each other and this is where it all really begins.
From there the story continues and this couple confront the Duke of Withingsby and Anthony's siblings together. Balogh not only develops Charity into a wonderful female protagonist that is far from an easily manipulated "mouse" and instead has enough character to spare, but she also develops Anthony into a character of depth whose personal growth is measurable from beginning to end. Needless to say I became emotionally involved with this couple, and as the story moved along with Anthony's whole family.
Having now read quite a few of Mary Balogh's back list titles, The Temporary Wife did not necessarily manage to surprise me, however what it did was reinforce the reasons behind my love for this author's books. Why is that? Well as in many of Balogh's romances, The Temporary Wife is character driven, and yes the characterization is fabulous, both that of the main couple and the very important secondary characters.
The plot device is not original if you take into consideration Balogh's works, she seems to like this trope: the marriage of convenience. Except that I've yet to read one of her romances where she repeats her approach to developing the romance, and as always those characters make the romances worth reading and in this case I was glued to the pages and read this story in one sitting. There was not one moment when I felt that the story flagged, nor was there disappointment for me along the way, and that of course is rare. So without a question The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh moves up on my list of favorite reads by this author.
Category: Historical Romance
Publisher/Release Date: Dell/February 28, 2012
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