A Counterfeit Betrothal
by Mary Balogh
Genre: Historical Romance
Republished by Dell, 2013
Originally published by Signet, 1992
About 280 pages
Synopsis: Lady Sophia Bryant has no intention of marrying anytime soon. Her one desire is to reunite her parents, who have been estranged for fourteen years. Surely, if she happens to announce her betrothal—even a false one—they will be forced to see each other. Devilishly handsome Lord Francis Sutton seems perfect for such deceit, always agreeable to games of passion in which he has nothing to lose. The trap is set—if only Lady Sophia can keep her foolish heart from falling prey to her brilliant snares.
This is one of Mary Balogh’s Signet regency romances from over 20 years ago. They’re slowly being republished by Dell. That makes me very happy. 🙂 Over the years I’ve searched for her older out-of-print books in used bookstores and found a few. I’ve also bought a few on e-bay and other on-line stores. Ms. Balogh is one of my favorite writers and I especially love her older books. Though really I’ve liked most everything she writes.
Mary Balogh writes satisfying historical romances about interesting and flawed characters. The regencies aren’t necessarily part of a series, but often have characters which show up in another book. Sometimes the character who seems the most irredeemable in one book is the hero of another book.
This book is interesting because the main characters aren’t Lady Sophia and Lord Francis (the young couple in the story), but are instead Lady Sophia’s parents–the Earl and Countess of Clifton (Marcus and Olivia). Sophia has manufactured her betrothal to Francis to get her parents back together. She loves them both and they love her. She’s sure that if they are just together for a few weeks they will stay together.
Sophia is only 18 and Francis has a reputation as a rake so her parents aren’t happy when she says she and Francis are in love. Since Marcus and Olivia separated years ago Sophia’s father has been the parent with her in London for her season. A house party at the Earl’s country estate is planned and Olivia arrives so she and Marcus can talk Sophia out of marriage with Lord Francis. Marcus and Olivia have lost faith in love:
…Marc had said in his letter that the young man was wild. That would mean that he was a daredevil, a gambler and drinker, a rake. A womanizer…
Sophia would end up with a lifetime of misery, an unfaithful rake for a husband.
Not that for Sophia. Please not that, she begged an unseen power silently. Please not that. Sophia was all she had. If she to live to see Sophia rejected and desperately unhappy, she would not be able to bear it.
Olivia is 36 and Marcus is 41. They parted 14 years ago after Marcus had a foolish, drunken sexual encounter when he went to the wedding of a friend. Olivia had stayed home with Sophia who was ill. His friends egged him on, calling him old, staid and married and he was immature and drunk enough to listen to them. He confessed what had happened to Olivia and she was horrified. They had had a love so perfect that they had never quarreled in five years of marriage. She decided their love was tainted and she would never trust him again.
She had written to tell him that after deep and careful reflection she had concluded that she could never again be his friend or his wife or lover after what had happened. It would always be there to come between them.
Over the years and after Olivia sees Marcus again she realizes how immature and young she had been when they had been together. They had married young, they had been so much in love, but they had been immature and they hadn’t grown. They had lived such a perfect life together that when the first trouble came along they couldn’t face it or adapt. Marcus let his friends convince him to commit a stupid act. They each had to grow and mature, but by that time they had separated.
This is a good book about second chances and learning to forgive. I enjoyed this book a lot. It is part of a two volume book. I will review the other book–The Notorious Rake–in a week or so.
Update: I checked at the Mary Balogh site and she says she has the rites to many of her older books and is planning to release them (perhaps only as e-books). She is asking her readers to let her know which ones they want to read first. This is very exciting for her fans!