NOT SO SWEET MARIA (Sisters by Marriage #1) by Jessica Spencer-a review
LOVE UNDER MISTAKEN IDENTITY.
The ton calls her Sweet Maria and, even in her fourth Season, eligibles continue to offer her marriage. They do not know Lady Maria despises the hypocritical ways of Polite Society and is trying to sail away to America!
Though the granddaughter of a duke, Lady Maria is a Child of Scandal because her mother was an American commoner. She blames the duke and the duchess for her parents’ death. Had they not disowned them, they would not have died of a virulent fever in America, leaving her an orphan at the age of five.
She has not forgotten the coldness she had met with as a child, and how there were those who examined her features for tainted blood, and disparaged her mother to her face.
She agrees to an arranged match to ward off her persistent suitors, treating the engagement as a sham one to be ended at her convenience.
Then, most unexpectedly, she finds love with a commoner. Only he isn’t a commoner but the Earl of Daventon.
Gareth, Earl of Daventon is no stranger to Scandal. Rumour has it that his father had banished his mother for adulterous behavior. He remembers his mother as a sweet, gentle woman and knows the late earl yearned until his last breath to have her back.
Love is a quagmire and I shall not be caught in it, he decides. But love finds him. The object of his ardour is a mysterious young woman who dresses like a shop girl and behaves like a lady.
Lord Daventon remedies the situation by accepting an arranged match, his betrothed being Lady Maria whom he hasn’t met.
All of which leads to a delightful tangle of affairs.
NOTE: NOT SO SWEET MARIA is a clean, Regency romance.
REVIEW: Not so Sweet Maria is a romance story set in 1793, not twenty years after the American Revolutionary War.
It begins when Mary (aka Maria) learns her father and mother have died of a virulent illness on their plantation in America. Her father has relatives that he hasn’t spoken much about in England. We learn he was actually the son of the Duke of Severn. He was almost disowned for marrying an American woman, below his station. She and her maid were quarantined for a short time, then were shipped to England and the Duchess of Severn, her grandmother. The Duchess decided to change her name from Mary to Maria.
The girl, Maria, is raised well by her seemingly cold natured grandmother. However, she becomes a shining example of what a good daughter and woman should be, revered by the famous, or should I say infamous, English haute ton (society). She’s sweet, but not coy. She has constant crowds of suitors for her hand, each seemingly infatuated with her kindness and beauty.
We first learn of Gareth, Earl of Daventon at one of the many parties of the social season. He too, is a child of scandal. His father, while not divorcing his mother, forced her to live apart from he and their children. This gave Gareth the reason he claimed for not marrying and shunning finding someone to love. As a child he assumed from snatches of conversation that his mother was unfaithful. However, he was persuaded to marry for the sake of his sister, so she could take her rightful place in the haute ton.
This romantic tale is cleverly written with enough backstory on the characters to let the reader understand how and why they act the way they do. It explains Maria’s seeming sweet manner and secret business, which she cleverly hides, as a means to buy back her families plantation and return to America as soon as she reaches twenty-one (I believe most women of that period were married much earlier…not sure twenty-one signified independence back then, but not really a large concern.).
That’s pretty much the set-up. I don’t do large spoilers. Good stories should be read and experienced first- hand for full effect. However, I found the why and how they fell in love, met, and the rest very interestingly written. This clever author keeps them just apart enough to let misunderstood identities work the full game, while spinning a tale of two perfect for each other people to create a web of forgiveness and intrigue.
It’s not an overly long story but one worth the time to read. Once edited (I read an unedited arc), it will be an interesting and fast paced one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale and look forward to more from the very clever author.
Copy supplied for review
Reviewed by Georgianna S.