When I picked up How to Manage a Marquess by Sally MacKenzie I had my fingers
crossed. I had issues with the first book in her new Spinster House series, What to do With a Duke. But because I found Ms. MacKenzie's earlier writings to be fun, I hadn't given up on her. So I was hoping that this book would be the light at the end of the tunnel I was looking for. Sigh.
Spoilers litter this review.
Concurrently. I'm not sure how I feel about books which have story lines running concurrently. A number of those books I have liked. But looking back on the books I liked, I believe most of those were published close together. In the case of What to do With a Duke and How to Manage a Marquess there is a spread of a whole stinkin' year. In order for those books to work for me I needed to read them closer together. Maybe some of you would be able to remember why that couple was leaving the room or why they've been gone for an hour or what they were whispering about, but I couldn't. This was an issue for me in this book. The previous hero, Marcus, was still a big part of the storyline - but, gee-willikers it's been a year! I didn't know what was going on and I'm didn't go back and reread just so the light bulb would go off. Anyway, I thought the whole rehash of Marcus' plot line made for a disjointed story. Since there are three books in this series, I suspect the next story about Jane and Alex will be just as problematic.
Family curses. In the previous story we learned about a 200 year old curse which claims the life of all the male Dukes of Hart once their wife is sprouting. You would think that the line would have died out by now - wrong. No those guys just keep plugging away. You see there was a codicil to that curse. If the heir falls in love the curse will no longer be valid. But, this book wasn't about the Duke of Hart or the curse or the breaking there of. Nope this book was about Nathaniel, Marcus' cousin. Once upon a time Nathaniel promised his mother (on her death bed) that he would watch out for Marcus and never let him die. Now, why his dying mother extracted this promise from her son was not clear to me, but she did. That wasn't the disturbing part of this curse. The disturbing part was Nate. You see Nate takes his job seriously. Real seriously. He's right there following his cousin around day and night, night and day. He's making sure that Marcus wasn't poking spaces that should be left un-poked. One might even say Nate was in Marcus' space - all the time, everywhere Marcus goes, everything he does -there's Nate. Nate was a real oppressive presence in Marcus' life. I found Nate to be more than a little irritating. I just wanted to throw something at him, shout at him - leave that 30 year old Marcus-guy alone. Get off of his back!
Family curses continued. I had a hard time stretching my belief with this curse. If the time period for this story had been placed in the medieval era or even the early 1600s I might have bought into it. But we are talking 1817 and for me this particular curse just didn't work. This story was a Regency romance not a Regency Gothic romance or a Regency paranormal. I think for the curse part to have worked in this book, Ms. MacKenzie should have been a little bit heavier handed with the supernatural atmosphere. I like spooky stuff, the unexplained, ghosts, spirits, witches, stuff etc. I know I've read other books where there were Regency hero and heroines who were affected by a 300 year old curse and those stories worked - but this one didn't. I can't explain it except to say it must have been the writing. This time around the curse part of this story didn't work for me.
Mean, nasty people. When I read the first book in this series I had an issue with the supposed friendship between the three women: Jane, Cat and Anne. They were supposed to be friends, but they treated each other abominably, they were nasty, catty and mean. They were not what I would ever consider a friend. I was hoping in this book we would see something likeable in Anne, but it was not to be. She was a brat. She was horrible to everyone; not just her friends, but her father, her father's fiancée, and the hero. Anne was one unpleasant person and I could feel no sympathy for her, even when I should have. But she isn't the only horrid person in this book. In fact it would be easier to say there were two characters in this book who were enjoyable. Those two characters would be seven-year-old Stephen and five-year-old Edward. This book is full of unpalatable people; from Anne's unfeeling, selfish father to his unpleasant, rigid fiancée Eleanor to a house full of oblivious relatives.
Nosedive time. There came a time in this book, (which I was struggling to finish) that it took a real nosedive. Almost a wallbanger moment - so to speak. Anne and her father have lots of obstacles. They don't get along, they don't talk and when they do it's more along the line of sniping. Anne knew her father wanted to marry a much younger woman; in fact this woman, Eleanor, was a year younger than Anne. There were some really harsh feelings between all three of these people. But do not fear, there's a party they were invited to. On the journey there, Anne's father had all kinds of time to talk to her - he didn't. Maybe he was a little put off because every time he tried, she bit his head off. She was a little off-putting. We arrive at the party. Eleanor's entire family was at the county party, plus our hero. There was this biggggg family dinner. It was at this dinner that her father decides to announce his engagement to Eleanor - without telling Anne. Without giving her any kind of warning. Anne is hurt, outraged, livid. Oh by the way, her father also announces that Eleanor and he have been a little precipitous in celebrating their wedding vows. He makes a public announcement that his fiancée Eleanor was with child. Anne precedes to get roaring drunk and throws-up all over our hero. My ears are still ringing from this What-the-Hey scene. First of all Eleanor was a widow of about two months! That's some pretty salacious quick work there. Secondly, how embarrassing - how scandalous - how historically inaccurate would a public announcement of an unwed woman being pregnant be? I couldn't believe this scene. From the surprise announcement to the pregnant shout out to the drunken throw-up, it was a wallbanger moment. Do you see why I didn't like any of these people? Shall I go on?
Unchaperoned. I had another What-the-Hey moment when Anne traveled back to her home with the hero and no one was chaperoning her except her soon to be step-brothers: a five and seven-year-old. It was unbelievable. Just one more thing to add to my growing list of OMG moments.
The magical big "C". Once again there is an overabundance of the "C" word (rhymes with rock). I have no idea why that word is used soooo much in this story. Saying C___ a million gazillion times didn't mean it's hot or sexy or passionate. It's not as if Timothy Toad did anything, except in this case - talk. Yes, Nathaniel's Timothy Toad talks to him - all the time. It urges him on, encourages him to seek shelter in the nearest wet cave. But that's ok, because you see Nate talks back to his Mr. Toad. He tells him to shut up, he tells him his hopes and dreams and reads him bed time stories and they play the piano together. I made some of that up. However, I hear that they are going on the road - the Marquess of Haywood and his amazing talking "C" Toad. Haywood can join those other greats: Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, Jimmy Nelson and Farfel the wonder dog, Sherry Lewis and Lamb Chop, Edgar Bergan and Charley McCarthy, Wayland Flowers and Madame, Senor Wences and his hand. By the way, when the big bazooga moment happened, I had to reread the paragraph to actually make sure it had occurred.
There were so many things in this book I had a problem with. Badly written woman-getting-drunk-not-funny-scene; nasty, horrible characters; a stretch of historical accuracy which even I could not overlook; an unfeeling father and a snotty daughter; a I-can't-marry-because-I have-to-follow-my-cousin-around-and-make-him-miserable hero; the overuse of the c-rhymes-with-rock word and last but not least a talking Mr. Toad.
Time/Place: 1817 England
Sensuality: Don't Blink
Kay is an avid reader of historical romance books, maybe with a little trip into paranormal land and an occasional journey into mystery world.