Mary Fleming and John Bexley are the “white sheep’ of their large families, written off as hapless, boring—and thus suitable for each other. But they’re no sooner married than John is sent off on a two-year diplomatic mission.
Upon his return, John and Mary find that everything they thought they knew about each other is wrong. They’ve changed radically during the long separation. They have to start all over. It’s surprising, irritating—and somehow very exciting…
Read on for my thoughts on Married To A Perfect Stranger. No true spoilers, promise.
What happens when two people marry only because their families want the match. A surefire disaster in the making – yet, so many couples of this era started out this way. What changes family duty into a lifetime of love?
Mary and John’s marriage was somewhat arranged by their mothers, who didn’t expect much for their own children. Both were seen as unassuming, manageable, biddable, boring people. But perfect for each other – for those exact reasons. While not in the top level of the ton, John worked for the Foreign Office, they were in the middle range of the ton. Not Lord nor Lady, but not merchants or tradespeople either. A spot where they were respected but hardly held up on a pedestal.
A few weeks after their marriage, John was sent by the Foreign Office to accompany a diplomatic party to China. He would be gone for nearly two years. Mary was sent to the country to care for her aging Great Aunt. In fact, both were sent off to do perfectly boring jobs that no one else wanted to do. It was their lot in life, for the most part — doing what was expected of them in a boring, non-complaining fashion.
That was about to change… drastically.
While John was off on his trip, he discovered that he did have the capacity for taking charge of an emergency situation in a very non-boring fashion. Sent off to the country to stay out of trouble while her husband was away, Mary discovered that she was quite capable of managing a household and solving problems in an extremely efficient non-boring manner. Our main characters were growing up and growing into their situations – unfortunately far away from each other.
Upon John’s return you could honestly say that they were perfect strangers. From their first meeting after John’s ship arrived, it was obvious to them that each had changed greatly over the last two years – and in each one’s opinion… certainly not for the better. Both silently thought that if things had been different they never, ever would have been married to the other. Never.
It isn’t often that we are given a story of those not in the top levels of London’s society in Historical – Regency Romance novels. It was very refreshing and interesting to see another section of the gentry being given a chance in the spotlight.
I very much enjoyed Married To A Perfect Stranger. The story was interesting, the mystery within the main story was enough to keep my eyes opened for clues. But we really are seeing two people who had never, ever in their lives been seen as worthwhile to their families. Oh, they were good as the brunt of a so called joke or to be called upon to do a service that no one else wanted to be responsible for — yet, their worth just wasn’t seen. And so their own self-worth was never realized to themselves, until John and Mary had to work on their own marriage.
I understand why John often came off as a pompous ass towards Mary in this story – it did not make me want to smack him upside his head any less though. I’m not even convinced by the end of their story that John would ever completely stop his “I’m the man” attitude – but then he was created as a man of those times. I just don’t like my heroes to be asses, ya know? And sometimes he really, really was.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good Regency romance with a touch of mystery involved. These aren’t your usual characters, so see them for what they are – not what you’re used to in this kind of novel. And pay attention to Mary’s sketchings – they are important. I’d have to give this one a 4 star review.
*I received an e-ARC of Married To A Perfect Stranger from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. That does not change what I think of this novel.*
This novel is available in paperback and for the Kindle at Amazon.