Phoebe is a teacher who dreams of nice clothes and bonnets she can never afford. It makes you wonder how much of a salary she’s making, the poor thing. But Phoebe knows her limitations in both her understated looks and upbringing, although she can speak five languages and is a very learned woman. A former student of Phoebes, Lisbeth Redmon, invites her to stay with her during a house party. Phoebe is glad to get away and have a holiday of sorts, although she will be treated only a step above a servant. While in a an emporium, practically drooling over all the lovely gloves and ribbons, Julian Spencer, Marquess Dryden enters and acts like he owns the place. He’s very rich and has a respected title and expects those lesser then him to bow or cower before him. Julian is as acquaintance of Lord Waterburn who acts like a friend to Julian, but is very petty and jealous. He likes to place bets that Julian has no choice but to accept. Phoebe overhears him and Julian talking about her in not so nice ways. The word unkissable is used. Phoebe is insulted, but leaves without causing a scene.
Phoebe doesn’t expect to see Julian or Waterburn again, but they both have been invited to the same party she has. Lizbeth wants to marry Julian and even though she turns to Phoebe for advice, she treats Phoebe poorly mainly because of her station. Julian notices this and goes out of his way to make Phoebe comfortable. Phoebe assumes Julian is being nice to her because he wants to win his bet, but he doesn’t care about the bet. Soon these two become close through their interactions, and after a few kisses, Julian wants Phoebe as his mistress. Phoebe refuses, but instead of going back to the school, she’s invited by two sisters, friends of Lizbeth, who want her to stay with them and have a season in London. Phoebe accepts, not realizing this is all part of Waterburn’s wicked plan to not only make her look like a fool based on another bet, but to get back at Julian for some reason.
Phoebe and Julian’s dialogue is the reason the first part of How the Marquess was Won was so good. These two are mature adults, who want to give into their passion to one another, but know they can’t because of the consequences and the fact they don’t really have a future together. Phoebe is too reasonable and respectful of herself to give up her life and fall into Julian’s arms without marriage. Julian is irked by this, but listens to Phoebe’s reasons and respects them. The scenes at the house party where Julian falls for Phoebe are lovely, but then everything goes downhill when Phoebe is invited to London in the guise of a cruel prank that most of the London ton is a part of.
Waterburn is the villain here, but he’s too one-dimensional and has no real personality. Why he dislikes Julian is so is immature and silly. Also the way Lizbeth treats Phoebe makes no sense. At first we’re told that Lisbeth isn’t too bright, but a kind soul, who eventually has a personality transplant and becomes a major witch. There seems to be no valid reason for Lizbeth to act the way she does and she becomes more of an annoyance if anything.
How the Marquess Was Won had the makings of a great book, but it fell flat when it should have shined. I don’t understand what was the point of making Phoebe the victim of such bullying by the titled London society. It really didn’t evoke an emotional response from me and seemed to take something special away from the story. I guess it was to show how Phoebe can rise above the cruel nature of people and come out stronger? If so, I missed that. This is one read that will surely please readers of historical romance, but as for myself it’s a pass. (Avon)
Final Grade: C+
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