Friday, February 27, 2015

Release Day for 

Married to a Perfect Stranger by Jane Ashford

Brand new Regency romance from RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award Nominee Jane Ashford

Time and distance have changed them both...

Quiet and obliging, Mary Fleming and John Bexley marry to please their families and John immediately leaves on a two-year diplomatic mission. Now John is back, and everything they thought they knew about each other was wrong...
It's disconcerting, irritating-and somehow all very exciting...

"Charm, intrigue, humor and just the right touch of danger." -RT Book Reviews, on Charmed and Dangerous

"Jane Ashford is an excellent writer-her prose is a joy to read." -Regency Retro Reads

"Jane Ashford's romances are bewitching, filled with those elements that delight a reader: good story, intrigue and dynamic tension." -Romance

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. Her romances have been published all over the world. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Praise for Married to a Perfect Stranger:
Named a Spring 2015 Most Anticipated Title by Publishers Weekly

“[T]he perfect blend of interesting, emotionally complex, and open-hearted protagonists … In a story of personal growth and excited rediscovery, both characters must overcome scorn and opposition from their family and colleagues in order to come into themselves, appreciate each other, and turn a naïvely arranged marriage into a passionate partnership.”
Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

“Well written with a nice overview of the workings of the Foreign Office in the 1800s, Ashford’s tale of young newlyweds parted and reunited after nearly two years engages readers’ emotions. This is a touching, heart-warming story.” – RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

“Ashford’s latest flawlessly written love story is a quietly compelling tale... The author’s ability to create truly memorable characters while getting all the historical domestic details exactly right ensures that romance readers picky about authenticity will be well rewarded” – Booklist

Connect with the Author:

Published & Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, March 3, 2015

Time and setting: 1819 England  

Genre: Historical Romance

Heat Level: 1

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s Musings

While browsing titles in Net-Galley, I read the book description for Married to a Perfect Stranger and it piqued my curiosity. I accepted an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via Net-Galley for an honest review. I love arranged marriage stories where the couple falls in love after the wedding. This one has the added twist of the couple being separated shortly after the honeymoon without having a chance to get to know each other.

John Bexley is the third son of a gentry family. While not a titled family, they are nonetheless well respected. John is neither brilliant, nor good at sports as his three other brothers are, so he a bit of a miss-fit. This has undermined his confidence until he accepts a position as a clerk for Lord Amhurst. At last he was an opportunity to prove he is not a bungling fool that his family has always thought him to be.

Mary Fleming is one among five daughters and her family does not understand her since she has a problem with the written word and expresses herself through her drawings. Her family arranges a match between her and John Bexley, thinking since both are miss-fits, they should be able to get along well enough.

Mary and John meet at a Bath assembly, and as lambs led to market, they go along with their family’s wishes and soon find themselves wed. While neither feel a strong attachment to the other, they do manage to have an enjoyable honeymoon, if a tad bland.

Shortly after their return from their honeymoon, John is selected to go with Lord Amhurst on a diplomatic mission to China. This is another opportunity for John and he enthusiastically leaves Mary without any hesitation, hoping to further his career.

While John is gone, Mary’s family sends her to live with her great-aunt in Somerset. While it is not far from her family’s home, they rarely visit her. It soon becomes apparent to Mary that her great-aunt is beginning to suffer from dementia, and she has to take over running her aunt’s home. While she has always been timid and shy, she accepts this and finds out she is excellent at managing a household to her surprise, and that she actually enjoys it tremendously. This is Mary’s opportunity to show she is able to excel at something, and she takes full advantage of it.

Two years later, John returns from his mission a changed man, not only in attitude, but appearance as well. Mary wonders where the easy-going man she had married has gone to. John is shocked when he realizes that Mary is not the shy, unassuming girl he left behind, but a ‘managing female’. They both realize they are wed to a stranger with little to no resemblance to who they thought they had married.

After several confrontations, they agree to start afresh. Can they learn to accept each other and all these changes, or will they exist in a loveless marriage, never finding the love they both want more than either of them ever imagined?

I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted romance of two people thrown together by an arranged marriage. What made this such an enjoyable read for me is the true kindness both characters possess.

Mary shows a much stronger will than her family has ever imagined and even faced with her mother’s disapproval, she continues to draw her amazing water-color portraits of people with uncanny foresight into their souls. She is able to depict her subjects so realistically that at times, the individuals are shocked that she has unearthed their deepest fears and anxiety. Her sketch of Lady Castlereagh causes a bit of a scandal for John.  

While John is at first taken aback by the changes in Mary, he does want to find contentment in their marriage. Even though John is somewhat abrupt, his kindness shines through when he takes the young lad that Mary has agreed to help under his wing.

Arthur is a delightful character. His exuberance for life and adventure is enchanting and adds greatly to this wonderful story. Ms. Ashford not only breathes life into her hero and heroine, she also does this with her secondary characters, including the housemaid and the cook, a mother and daughter who constantly bicker over everything.

The only reason I did not give this charming story five gold crowns is because, Ms. Ashford does change point of view from the hero to the heroine from one paragraph to the other, which at times caught me off guard. I will say that it did give me a great deal of insight to see each character’s thoughts instantaneously and her transition is much smoother than I have experienced in the past. I normally find POV switches like this extremely irritating.

If you are looking for a book with excellent pacing, an intriguing plot with just a touch of mystery and a different type of hero and heroine, then you will love this delightful tale as much as I did. I will definitely looking for other books by this talented author. Happy reading!

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