This is a sweet but slightly uninspiring Victorian romance with a cinnamon roll hero, a heroine fleeing her past, and an unexpected herd of alpacas!
Book: A Marriage Deal With The Viscount by Bronwyn Scott
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided free of charge through NetGalley for fair review. All opinions my own.
Release Date: December 17th 2018. Amazon affiliate link here.
This book has what is essentially a marriage of convenience plot, but with a little bit of a twist, since the heroine is (gasp) divorced. Viscount Taunton needs money to shore up a sinking estate by creating an alpaca farm; Sofia, the Marchesa di Cremona, needs protection from her ex-husband, though whether their divorce has actually been recognised is a bit of a grey area. Her (ex-)husband, who is Italian, is pretty much an evil caricature, and Taunton is set up in direct opposition to him, so not only is he strong and handsome, he’s also kind and loving. He didn’t really have any flaws, so I found him a bit meh as a lead. Sofia I thought I would like, as usually it’s great to see strong women, escaping from their abusive pasts, get a chance to feel safe and supported in a relationship. But I found her a little bit dull, too – she really only has two thoughts, and those are ‘I hate Giancarlo’ and ‘I quite fancy Conall’.
There’s nothing wrong with this book, per se, but for me it fell a little short of the standard I’ve come to expect. I didn’t think there was much chemistry between the main characters, and the obstacles in their way were very easily overcome – there was very little nuance in the story. It felt a little bit going-through-the-motions-y.
Also, I was hoping that the alpacas would play a much larger role in the plot! You know, getting into trouble by breaking out of their pen, nibbling on the heroine’s dress and causing embarrassment, knocking characters into other characters… Sadly, they very much stay on the sidelines as a business investment until right at the end of the book – no alpaca jollity to be had. Conall really could have been investing in anything. Like bricks. Or jelly. This could have been a deeper facet of the plot, since I assume the arrival of alpacas to England had some influence over the time period of the novel – I wouldn’t have been able to tell it was Victorian rather than Regency if the date wasn’t explicitly mentioned (so as to line up with the real-life introduction of alpacas to England).
(Also, why alpacas and not vicunas? The Viscount’s Vicunas would have been a great title.)
Anyway, alpacas aside, this is a solid and readable romance, but it never quite felt like it took off with my imagination. A middling three out of five cats.