The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney (revised from The Would-be Widow)
I guess, you guess, she guesses… this book was a guessing game (and not the fun kind) for our hero, heroine and the reader. The heroine spends half the book guessing – its actually noticeable the number of things she discerns just by guessing. Where is the meaningful conversation? The reader, meanwhile, spends most of the book guessing at the heroine’s vast mood swings and temper tantrums (which she claims she doesn’t have often – clearly someone’s been lying to the poor chit).
Lady Jocelyn Kendal marries Major David Lancaster, a man on his deathbed and wasting away, having been seriously injured in the war. Their marriage is clearly one of convenience, each with a very good reason. Jocelyn’s father put a stipend in his will that Jocelyn must marry before her twenty-fifth birthday to continue to receive her vast inheritance. David is worried about who will take care of his governess sister Sally once he kicks the can. Jocelyn promises 500 pounds a year to his sister in exchange for his marriage to her to satisfy the will. She is planning to become the Duke of Candover’s mistress after David dies – since she believes herself in love with him (or not? It was hard to tell) and he won’t offer marriage. David, however, makes a miraculous recovery after the marriage. Oh she-bang, what to do? I’m sure you can imagine.
This book had a lot of potential to be fun – man-and-wife love stories are really fun. However this book was so bungled up with Jocelyn’s strange, erratic, nonsensical behavior that the love couldn’t really blossom. I felt a lot of love on David’s part, and at one point I almost got lost in the story until Jocelyn pulled me back out of it again with yet another one of her antics. David was a really sweet guy even if he, for some reason, fell in love with Jocelyn (poor taste, man). He was loveable, sensitive, and soulful and a very unique hero in that Putney didn’t make a huge deal over his masculinity (especially since he starts the book as an invalid). However Jocelyn’s spoiled, bratty, impulsive attitude really ruined the book for me and with no substantial plot to make up for it, this book sunk lower and lower in my esteem. There were a few redeeming male characters like Richard or Ian, but all the females were irrational and flat which was very irritating.Finally, Putney does one of the things I most hate in romance novels *****SPOILER ALERT*****- reinforces the idea that money and title are necessary for a happy ending. Partway through the book, David inherits and becomes Lord Presteyne after his three older, evil half-brothers all die. Why is it that the man must be titled for the story to end satisfactorily? Why was David as a war hero, as a Major, not enough? Oh, woe is me. This is one of my biggest buttons and historical writers push it frequently, and with glee. *****END OF SPOILER ALERT*****
“Whoever claimed females were the weaker sex didn’t know you. All a poor male can do is agree quickly and hope to escape unscathed.” (David)
“but I think you’d make a better husband for her than a man whose greatest challenge has been the cut of his coat.” (Richard to David)
“When you’re dead, its devious or nothing.” (David)
“Sexy”ness rating: Mildly hot, lacking the spice of passion, but the wang does make an appearance.
Overall Rating: D+
Bottom Line: Boring, flat characters, an uninteresting storyline and a hysterical heroine make this book really not worth your while.
Pages: 352 Pages
Published: March 23, 2011
Genre: Historical (Regency)