Title: An Infamous Marriage
Author: Susanna Fraser
May Contain Spoilers
I enjoyed An Infamous Marriage quite a bit, due to the strength of the protagonists. The first quarter of the book was wonderful, and the couple wasn’t even on the same continent! With the emphasis on the war against Bonaparte at the end of the story, I thought that the book covered new ground, too. I liked that we were given a first hand account of both Jack and Elizabeth’s wartime experience, fretting with them both as they struggled to maintain a sense of calm amidst the chaos surrounding them. Elizabeth had an especially difficult time, as she waited for word from the front that Jack was kept from harm’s way. Their parting before he rode into battle was heartbreaking; having caught her husband in a dreadful lie, Elizabeth’s hurt frothed to the surface, making her unable to see him off with anything but bitterness. While his behavior was unbecoming of the man of honor he claimed to be, it was Elizabeth who suffered most from their harsh parting. I felt so bad for her, too. Jack really had behaved like a cad, and his window of opportunity to confess his crimes had long closed.
After her husband of a week falls tragically and terminally ill, he forces a promise from his best friend to marry Elizabeth and keep her safe. Unable to refuse his deathbed request, both Elizabeth and Jack find themselves married shortly after Giles’ funeral. Their neighbors are aghast, but Jack has to return to Canada, where he serves in the army, so there is no time for mourning. He’s gone for five long years, and at first, Elizabeth finds herself falling for the man she married. His letters are a delight to her, and she cherishes each piece of Jack that he shares through his missives. Then a meddlesome neighbor shares some gossip from Canada with her; Jack has made quite a reputation for himself, and it’s not a good one. He’s a rake and, despite being newly wed, he is engaging in one affair after another, without even bothering to be discrete about his activities. Elizabeth’s world is shattered. How could he be so cruel, and humiliate her without even a shred of remorse?
Jack does behave like an idiot. I don’t know why he thought word of his indiscretions would never reach his wife. It’s not like he was in Canada all by himself, and there was nobody around to notice him flaunting his mistresses about. When Elizabeth confronts his behavior when he returns home after a five year absence, she is angry that he’s caused her so much grief. She gives him the opportunity to come clean and confess all of his sins. When he insists that he’s a man of his word and he isn’t a liar, he only cleans half of the slate. Keeping one secret from her, one that embarrasses him, he leaves the door open for future heartbreak for both of them. I could not believe that an army man, a man who had faced death on the battlefield, would chicken out when given the opportunity to clear the air between himself and his wife. Elizabeth would have been furious, rightfully so, but she also would have forgiven him, in time. By lying to her – oh, dear, I knew that wasn’t going to end well.
Even though I wanted to dislike Jack, I couldn’t. He sincerely felt awful about what he did, and he lacked the courage to confess. I was in an agony of suspense as I wondered how Elizabeth would find out what a cad he had been. The pacing of this story is leisurely, as both Jack and Elizabeth’s point of view is explored. I enjoyed glimpses of both of their lives, both in peacetime and war. At the start of the book, I was unsure if I would buy into their HEA, but by the time I reached the last page, I was convinced that, while both characters had flaws and lapses of common sense (epically, on Jack’s part), they believed enough in each other and their future together to put those painful memories in the past.
Review copy provided by author