The Bargain, Mary Jo Putney

The Bargain
By: Mary Jo Putney
Published date: April 1, 2011

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
How hot is it: Moderately tame.
Hero: Major David Lancaster
Heroine: Lady Jocelyn Cromarty

What an educational read for me. The more I read romance novels, the more I realize that there’s so much I haven’t read. Case in point, Mary Jo Putney, who has been writing for years, and I’ve not even touched her extensive catalog. She’d never really come to my attention before, but reading this book was like finding a kindly aunt who gave you warm cookies when you saw her, but also knew how to spice things up.

Anyway, the story was super sweet. Jocelyn’s father made a stipulation in his will that to receive her inheritance, she needed to be married by twenty-five years of age. Well, fast forward to a month before that date, and Jocelyn hasn’t found a man to marry, except the Duke of Candover, whom she finds attractive, but doesn’t feel overly emotional about. While visiting a Waterloo survivor and friend in the hospital, she stumbles upon David, who is on his death bed after suffering a spinal injury due to being nearly blown up. Jocelyn makes him a bargain that if he marries her, she will provide his sister and only relative with a healthy monthly allowance.

So they marry, and then David gets a second opinion about his condition, has surgery, overcomes an addiction to laudanum (opium), and manages to be charming and honorable while he’s doing it. Some guy! And then, once he is recovered, pretty much rendering Jocelyn’s plan of being free to carry on an affair with the Duke of Candover pointless, he offers to lie about being impotent so they can get an annulment. Who wouldn’t like this guy? Jocelyn doesn’t plan on falling in love with David because she has some deep emotional scars left over from her parents’ scandalous divorce. She believes that she doesn’t deserve love, that because her mother abandoned her, she is empirically unlovable. So when David tells her he loves her, she runs to the Duke of Candover because she’s so afraid that once David knows her, David will find her unlovable too and because she loves him so much, his leaving would be unbearable.

There’s also a fun secondary plot with David’s sister, who married the crazy Scottish doctor who basically saves David’s life. They were fun characters I would have liked to have seen get their own book, but it was cute nonetheless.

This was definitely an emotionally compelling story. I found parts of it super cheesy, and I can’t say I’m going to run out and read another of Putney’s books tomorrow, but it was good. It’s just the right type of book to curl up in bed with on a cold day and drink tea and eat baked things. The characters weren’t overly complex or jaded or in possession of weird hang-ups or annoying mannerisms, they were just nice people who did good things and needed time to figure out that it was okay to be in love with each other. I’d share some claret with them anytime.

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