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To Wed a Stranger (Avon Historical Romance) Kindle Edition
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Miles Croft, recently returned from the wars and sold out of the army, needs a wife. Money isn't an issue; what he needs most of all is someone who has a secure position in Society, so that she can launch his younger sister Camille and provide a steady influence for his younger brother. His mother, cowed by her second husband, has neither the confidence nor the influence to help - so his choice of wife is crucial. Lady Annabelle appears to fit the bill in every respect.
So a marriage of convenience, entered into not because either character even likes the other. Annabelle, on her wedding night, is shocked to discover that her husband actually intends to consummate the marriage *now* rather than waiting until she feels ready to do so - and, although the act is mildly pleasurable for her, the pain she feels doesn't recommend lovemaking very much to her.
But then, the very next day, as they journey to Miles' holiday home in Devon, Annabelle is taken ill. She has influenza, and is very badly affected, almost dying. A quack doctor has her head shorn and cuts and bleeds her; that, combined with an alarming degree of weight loss, robs her of her good looks and turns her in appearance into a skeletal, bald, pock-marked child. Miles has stayed with her throughout, out of pity and a sense of responsibility, but it is during this time that the couple actually become close - far closer, it seems, than they might have become had Annabelle not been ill.
But then, how can she re-enter Society with her looks gone? How can she possibly help Camille? And be the kind of wife Miles needs? Annabelle fears that he will never see her as attractive again, let alone want to make love with her and give her children. But does Annabelle's only interest for Miles lie in her looks?
Contrary to another comment, Miles does not lose all sexual interest in Annabelle while she's recovering; he does want her, but he's afraid to hurt her or get her pregnant before she is strong enough to carry a child.
This book continues Edith Layton's C series, and readers of that series will recognise Annabelle as the capricious, selfish woman rejected by Damon, Rafe and Drum, and in whom Eric Ford pretends an interest order to help Rafe. Can she be redeemed? I really wasn't sure - but then Layton confounded all my expectations and made me like Annabelle. It is her illness which makes all the difference: robbed of her beauty, Annabelle has to fall back on finer qualities, which make her a much more likeable person.
You will also get glimpses of characters from previous books in To Marry A Stranger, and there is hope that Eric Ford may get his own book next. A good read!
Also as this is my first book to read by Edith Layton, I must say, she is a really good writer. She describes well with enough details. Does not become repetitive with certain phrases/words. However, at some points I had to read twice in order to understand what she was saying. Sometimes you felt like you are missing some inside joke, as if it should be universally known.
But as I said, a great book with a nice storyline.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Of course, Miles, the hero of the story and a naval veteran of the recent Napoleonic war, comes off admirably. He behaves honorably throughout. Or, at least, has honorable motives. Ms. Layton wrote a thought provoking story about the reality of marriage when the two parties enter into a contract of convenience based on mutual interest. But, they are strangers nonetheless. They marry and then they have to get to know one another and hope for the best. I liked this approach very much. It was not about a dashing handsome man sweeping a beauty off her feet and they both instantly fall in love. Oh no. But as they struggle with unforeseen challenges - Arabella's devastating illness - before the new couple can begin to even know if they like one another - I found myself wanting them to build a future together.
For those readers who have read this series of books by Layton, there is the bonus of the return of earlier couples in supportive roles. And a larger role and an appreciation for Arabella's father who also had married by arrangement.
All in all, this is a wonderful story. It's not just an excuse for erotica supposedly set in some quasi historical setting with lots of titled noblemen and ladies romping around and misbehaving. There is romance but it occurs realistically and not without setbacks and misunderstandings. I loved this book!
After having literally thrown herself at three different men over the past few London Seasons only to have them marry elsewhere, Lady Annabelle Wylde has become the focal point of some rather unpleasant gossip. So that when her father arranges a marriage for her with Miles Croft, Viscount Pelham, she reluctantly agrees to the union. Having given up on the notion that she'll ever marry for love, what else can she do save agree to an arranged marriage?
Miles Croft needs a socially prominent and accepted wife to help him repair his family's reputation which his scoundrel of a stepfather had destroyed quite thoroughly before he died. And after having noticed how Lady Annabelle carried herself and dealt with the ton in spite of all the unkind gossip, he's sure that she is the one who can help him do this. Of course there is the added bonus that Lady Annabelle also happens to be incredibly beautiful as well. And Miles is sure that this arrangement will work very well. Until everything goes terribly wrong during their wedding journey, when Lady Annabelle falls dangerously ill and looses most of her spectacular looks. Now, Miles is irrevocably tied to stranger he barely knows and has little in common with. Can he still look to Lady Annabelle to help him with his family now that she has lost her looks? And can this marriage really work given that he's not in love with his wife and is no longer attracted to her?
Ever since she was old enough to attend social functions, Lady Annabelle has used her beauty to prop herself up and to get what she wants. But now that she's no longer to spectacular Lady Annabelle, she's had to readjust her idea of who and what she is, and how Miles fits into everything. And the one thing she's come to realise is that there is a lot more to her than just her beauty. But can she get Miles to see this? For Lady Annabelle is beginning to realise that she may be falling in love with her kind and patient husband. But what of his feelings for her? Has Lady Annabelle lost her heart again to someone who doesn't return her feelings?
If you're looking for something that has nothing to do with the usual -- heroine at risk of her life subplot, or the spies and murderers that lurk in the bushes and drawing rooms subplot, or even the rakish hero pursuing/seducing innocent feisty heroine subplot -- then "To Wed A Stranger" would definitely do. It's a romance novel all about the relationship and love that develops and blossoms between two strangers who just happen to be married to each other. It's also about how a young woman who has always used her beauty to get her own way, now adjusts to the knowledge that she has, temporarily as least lost some of those looks, and resolves to be more than just a pretty face. This book is a really good example of Edith Layton's writing at her best, and gives one an inkling as to why so many consider her to be one of the best Regency-era romance novelists around. I liked how she developed the characters in this book, and how she allowed the novel to unfold in a smooth and even pace. True the ending was a bit rushed. I would have preferred a little bit more of a resolution to the subplot dealing with Miles' mother. And it would have been nice if Lady Annabelle's mother had been featured a lot more -- that would have made it a 10 star book for me! On the whole though, if you're looking for a good read that is a little more character driven and that is not the usual, "To Wed A Stranger" should definitely satisfy.