To extricate himself from financial difficulties, John Beauclerc, the Earl of Finchley, concocts a scheme to marry a stranger who’s answered his advertisement. He’ll show his grandmother! That lady’s withholding money until he can demonstrate more maturity and less scandalous behavior. At six and twenty, the last thing he wants is to settle down. He goes to the church at St. George’s Hanover Square to wed Miss Margaret Ponsby of Windsor, send her on her way with £100, and continue to pursue wine, women and faro with his fun-seeking friends. After the ceremony, he realizes he’s married the wrong woman. Miss Margaret Ponsby of Windsor obviously thought the wedding was to occur at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. Lady Margaret Ponsby was at St. George’s in London. How can he extricate himself from this wretched marriage—a marriage over which his grandmother is ecstatic? If only Lady Margaret Ponsby weren’t so shy. When the lanky young (though most disreputable) earl she’s worshipped from afar for as long as she could remember asks her to move to the church’s altar with him, she’s powerless to decline. Even after a wedding ceremony begins, she still remains mute. She must be standing in for Lord Finchley’s true bride. But once she realizes she really is married to Lord Finchley, she determines to do everything in her power to make this a dream marriage. Even if it means imitating her clever, talkative sister.
What do you do when you’re a rake who’s in debt up to your butt and can’t your hands on granny’s wealth until you prove you have matured? You do the most mature thing you can think of, put an ad in the paper for a bride in name only. Of course that’s what you do.
John Beauclerc hasn’t done a thing with his life since leaving school. Oh, to be sure has drunk himself into a stupor on many occasions, he has lost his shirt (and his horses and carriage) making bad bets, and he has certainly plowed more than a few fields, so to speak but he hasn’t done anything of significance or worth, ever. John certainly has no desire to change his ways but he is in desperate needs of his grandmother’s money and the only way to do that is to act responsibly, mature. When his marriage ad is answered, John proceeds to the church at the appointed date and time and takes a bride.
For as long as she can remember, Lady Margaret Ponsby has adored John Beauclerc. From her bedroom window she has admired his form and longed for the courage to talk to him, to become acquainted with him. Lady Margaret is more than aware of John’s reputation as a rake but she simply doesn’t care so when there is a huge case of mistaken identity (kind of!) and she becomes John Beauclerc’s wife, Margaret just can’t seem to be upset by her situation. Oh, and she is quite shy so putting an end to the ceremony or at least asking a few questions really wasn’t an option.
John makes it quite clear to Margaret that he has no intention of changing his ways and behaving a real and honorable husband should. Margaret, ever the clever and logical one assures John she is quite alright with his plans but if he is going to convince his grandmother of his newfound maturity, she had better move in with him. While John isn’t at all certain about having a roommate, Margaret’s plan does sound logical and he needs to look legitimate. In no time flat, Margaret moves in, sets up house, and becomes an indispensable ally and friend to her husband. Though Margaret would love to have a marriage in more than name only she knows forcing the issue will get her nowhere. Margaret is not just a logical and intelligent woman, she is also sweet and kind and genuinely likes John. As the days and weeks go by, Margaret discovers her husband is, at heart a rather decent man and if she is patient enough, he may eventually come around to her way of thinking.
The Bottom Line: There is nothing in the early part of this read to make the reader want to like John Beauclerc. Literally, his only redeeming quality is how kindly he treats his grandmother. Lady Margaret wasn’t the Margaret Ponsby John intended to marry but she is precisely the right woman for him. Without any sort of scheming or subterfuge, Margaret is able to tame the once-notorious rake and make a respectable man out of him. Margaret is the highlight of this read to be sure and as she grows more confident in her role as wife, friend, and eventual lover, she becomes even more delightful. Margaret’s general attitude and personality is instantly likeable and as she brings John around to behaving like a real human, even he becomes likeable. True to form, Bolen brings back characters from the previous two reads and sets the stage for the continuation of the series. In all, Countess by Coincidence is yet another fine addition to the House of Haverstock series.
Read an excerpt on Cheryl’s Website: http://cherylbolen.com/coincidence~ex.htm
Book #1: Lady By Chance:
Book #2: Duchess by Mistake:
Cheryl Bolen is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of over 20 romances, both historical and contemporary mystery. Many of her books have placed in contests, including the Daphne du Maurier (romantic suspense) and have been translated into ten languages. She was Notable New Author in 1999. In 2006 she won the Holt Medallion, Best Historical, and in 2012 she won Best Historical in the International Digital Awards and she’s had four other titles place in that competition. Her 2011 Christmas novella was named Best Novella in the Romance Through the Ages.