Two noble teenagers are married against their will. Drugged, Deb has no recollection of events. Disgraced, Julian is banished to the continent. Years later, Deb falls in love with a wounded duelist, only to discover it is her husband, returned incognito! Can Deb forgive his calculated deception? Will their marriage survive beyond seduction? Set in the opulent world of the aristocracy and inspired by real events, Lucinda Brant delivers another lavish 18th century experience in her trademark style - heart-wrenching drama with a happily ever after. 2013 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Medalist.
"Lucinda Brant's sweeping family sagas are a perfect reminder of why I fell in love with historical romance." (Cheryl Bolen, New York Times best-selling author) "Nice twists and turns, dramatic revelations, and some enjoyable chaos make this a book that keeps the reader turning the pages. Highly recommended!" (Fiona Ingram: five stars, Readers' Favorite)
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A twelve-year-old girl is awakened in the middle of the night and escorted to her brother’s library where a bishop in full regalia marries her to a drunk, distraught teenaged boy. The groom and the two elderly men who accompanied him disappear, and the bride returns to the nursery. I had a hard time buying into this situation until I learned that this book was inspired by the real-life story of the second Duke and Duchess of Richmond.
Fast forward nine years to 1769 and Deb Cavendish is living in Bath – alone, which is somewhat scandalous – except for her nine-year old nephew Jack, the orphaned son of her late half-brother – which also is somewhat scandalous, as his mother was a Gypsy. One day Jack and Deb stumble across a wounded young man, apparently a participant in a duel, in the woods near Bath. Deb tends to his wounds and falls in love at the same time, but the man is carried off by a stranger to recuperate, and Deb is left to dream about what might have been.
Julian Hesham, Marquess of Alston, cannot get the image of his beautiful savior out of his mind, but he doesn’t even know her name. Later, when Deb visits the home of Martin Ellicott, her French tutor, she comes face to face with Julian, who is Ellicott’s godson. Thus begins Julian’s courtship of his own wife.
After their forced marriage, Julian’s father, the powerful father the Duke of Roxton, had banished him to the Continent on account of Julian’s outrageous behavior toward his mother, with Martin Ellicott as his chaperon and teacher. Knowing that his son was headstrong and rebelious and fearing that he would marry some unsuitable foreign lady, the duke had decided that Deb Cavendish would make a proper wife for Julian, and Deb’s brother and guardian Gerald agreed.
After the wedding, Deb was convinced by her nurse that the strange ceremony had been merely a dream. At the age of eighteen, she had defied her brother Gerald and traveled alone to Paris to nurse her brother Otto through a fatal illness. When he and his wife both died, she returned with Jack to live in a respectable but not fashionable part of Bath. Her reputation had suffered among the high sticklers, but being a cousin to the Duke of Devonshire and a considerable heiress ensured that she was accepted among certain segments of Bath society.
Julian is smitten with his wife, but he fears that she will reject him because of his tarnished reputation. He is thought by all to be a rake and he has been accused by a influential Parisien, M. Lefevbre, of seducing his daughter and refusing to marry her. Deb is Julian’s wife in law, but he does not want her to feel compelled into becoming his wife in fact. Thus, he decides to court her as plain Mr. Julian Hesham and hopes to secure her affection before it becomes necessary to tell her the truth.
This aspect of the plot is a bit too far-fetched for me. I understood what the old duke was trying to do by selecting Julian’s bride, but why the secret wedding in the middle of the night? Why did Deb’s brother never tell her the truth? Here she is larking around Bath with suitors galore and she’s utterly unaware that she’s already married! Indeed, during her stay in Paris she came close to eloping with the artist Evelyn Ffolkes (who happens to be Julian’s cousin), and now she is being pursued by Mr. Robert Thesiger (heir to a baron but rumored to be the natural son of the Duke of Roxton). My goodness, this is an awfully small world. And when Deb does fall in love with Julian and they “marry” again, why does he still not tell her the truth? And why does this otherwise kind and loving man eventually reveal everything in the cruelest manner possible? And why does Deb go completely around the bend upon learning that she is married to a man she loves and who loves her back?
These are among the issues that really irked me as I was reading this book, but when I listened to the audio, they pretty much dissolved into the ether. I decided to quit asking questions and just listen to the beautiful voice of Alex Wyndham and his marvelous narration of this book. This was the first time that I have read a book and then immediately listened to the audio, and it really doesn’t surprise me that while I might have rated the book at 3.5 stars or so, Mr. Wyndham’s ten-star performance compels me to award the audio book a full five stars.
Don’t get me wrong; the writing is excellent. In fact, everything that I have read by Lucinda Brant is first-class and fully immerses the reader in the world of Georgian England. But in the reading, I kept second-guessing the characters’ decisions, while in the listening I was swept up by dialogue and events. And there are plenty of events: marriage, separation, meeting the in-laws, dodging a murderous villain, and all sorts of intrigue. One of the things I enjoy about Ms. Brant’s style is that she doesn’t keep the reader dangling for too long. Instead, she reveals pieces of the story as the book progresses, which has the effect of keeping me turning the pages, or listening late into the night as the case may be.
For those historical romance fans who have been gobsmacked by Nicholas Boulton’s presentation of Laura Kinsale’s books, I am thrilled to report that Alex Wyndham is every bit as good. His narrative voice is deep and lovely, but he skillfully segues from the aging, imperious Roxton to the French duchess to the young boys, Jack and his best friend Harry. He is very good with the various female voices – avoiding the falsetto that some male narrators adopt – but the star of this audio book has to be Julian. He is young and cocky but also tremendously warm and quite funny, all of which comes through beautifully in his voice.
Alex Wyndham already has narrated Ms. Brant’s Alec Halsey mystery/romance series and is set to do the remainder of the Roxton series. For reasons not clear to me, the first Roxton book, Noble Satyr, will be the last one brought out in audio, but I don’t think that it’s necessary to have read it in order to enjoy the remainder of the books.
Despite my quibbles about parts of the plot, I unreservedly recommend that you listen to Midnight Marriage.
Beautiful, Exciting Story and Excellent Narration!
Would you listen to Midnight Marriage: A Georgian Historical Romance again? Why?
Yes, I would listen to Midnight Marriage again. Lucinda Brant is an excellent writer, who keeps the story constantly moving while making you fall in love with the characters. I caught myself rewinding and listening to certain parts of the story to replay the scenes in my head!
What other book might you compare Midnight Marriage: A Georgian Historical Romance to and why?
This is the first time I've read (heard) Lucinda Brant's writing. Two of my favorite authors are Eloisa James and Jennifer Ashley, and Lucinda's now on my immediate-buy list with these two authors!
What does Alex Wyndham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I would not have chosen a better narrator than Alex Wyndham. He does excellent voices for each of the characters. I believe he made the characters truly seem real, as if I was watching a movie. I would definitely listen to another book knowing he narrated it.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I actually laughed out loud at several parts of the book and became emotional towards the end. Although I did not cry, I believe it takes an extremely talented author to bring such an emotional reaction to written word. Lucinda Brant is an excellent story teller.
Any additional comments?
I can't wait to read and listen to the rest of the series!