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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Bilson

How To Cross A Marquess by Jane Ashford

It’s a little bit hard for me to rate this book, because I’m really struggling with my feelings about the hero of it. Roger, Marquess of Chatton, is a decent enough sort of fellow for the most part, and it also seems plain that in today’s world, he’d be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Subtlety is completely alien to him, he doesn’t see nuances or reasons behind the actions of other people, and words really aren’t his friends - he has a habit of blurting out things others would find inappropriate.

Once I’d armchair-diagnosed Roger’s autism, his behaviour was much more understandable - but that still didn’t make him very likable. There’s one moment where he’s verbally nasty to the heroine’s ten-year-old nephew, and even though he regrets it afterwards and does his best to make amends, I know how I’d feel if someone treated my ten-year-old son that way, and ‘completely untrusting’ would be the least of it. It would be a deal-breaker.

The heroine, Fenella, is much easier to like. The ‘spinster daughter’, she’s been left looking after her disagreeable father on his descent into dementia. Years ago, her father and Roger’s tried to arrange a match between the two, but they were both far too immature. Fenella ran off to her Scottish grandmother, where she was supported and coached into her own independence, and Roger… ran off to London and made some different mistakes, some of which are still haunting him. Now they’re back in the same place, and both of them are starting to think that maybe marriage wouldn’t be so bad after all, because as adults, they rather like each other.

If you’re looking for an insta-love sort of read, this very much isn’t it. It is, however, a rather good portrayal of two people slowly realizing what they’ve been looking for was right there in each other the whole time, once they’d grown up enough to realize it. There’s common ground and mutual goals and genuine affection between the two, a foundation strong enough to build a life together on.

It’s very realistic and true to how most marriages actually start, and… it just falls a little flat as a romance novel. Despite a minor suspense subplot, it’s frankly rather dull. Combined with my mixed feelings about Roger as a hero, I just struggle to feel more than ‘meh’ about this one. Three stars.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

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