Be careful what you wish for…
Lord Havelock is in need of a wife. But with no time for a society wedding and no stomach for girlish fripperies, his options are limited. So with help from his friends, he draws up a list of qualities he does desire in a wife….
When orphaned Mary Carpenter discovers her handsome new husband's list, she's hurt -- and incensed. If he thinks she'll sit meekly by, be "compliant" and "a mouse," he's got another think coming! Is it perhaps time for Mary to make a list of her own, and change the rules of their relationship forever…?
Very good book, with two characters who don't fit the usual type in these stories. Mary, while having noble blood, isn't a member of high society. Recently orphaned and without resources, she has been bounced from relative to relative until landing where she is. The Paregeters are distant relatives, but make room for her in their lives. She is thankful for the home, but determined to make her own way as soon as possible. She has no desire to be married, as her observations of her parents' marriage had turned her against it. Her father had had a bad temper and a controlling nature.
Lord Havelock is a viscount, wealthy and good looking, but that's about it. He has a short temper and very few social graces. He is definitely not a smooth talker and tends to be quite blunt in his speech. He also has a very complicated family life, which has left him with no desire to be married and definitely no wish to be "in love." When he finds himself in need of a wife, in order to make a home for his younger half-sister, he goes to his friends for help.
I felt a bit sorry for Lord Havelock. He had an idea of what he wanted, but not how to go about finding it. The list making scene was pretty funny. When Morgan took him to the ball to introduce him to possible candidates, he felt really out of place. I loved the way he immediately noticed Mary, and wanted to get to know her. His awkwardness at supper was both painful and sweet, as he really wanted to make a good impression on her. But he was determined and over the next few days pursued her hard.
Mary didn't intend to accept his suit, but once he explained why he needed a wife she was tempted, especially as he offered her the chance to have the things she wanted. All she had asked for was security and to be left to live her own life as much as possible. She considers herself too plain to appeal to a man anyway.
I loved the interactions between Havelock and Mary. Obviously, they don't really know each other, but there had been an immediate connection between them. Part of that connection is the intense attraction that flares between them. Both had agreed that they wanted a child soon, so as to take advantage of their attraction before it disappeared, as both believe it will, thanks to their past exposures to marriage. When Mary stumbles onto the list that Havelock had made, she is hurt by the descriptions she read, and determined to be more than he had described. I liked seeing her develop a bit more of a backbone than she had seemed to have at the beginning.
It was great fun to see their arrival at his estate, only to discover that there was no one there to meet them and take care of them. Having to work together also brought them closer. I loved seeing how Mary came to realize that, though Havelock had a temper, he was not like her father. It was really sweet to see the way that he would apologize after a display of anger. I also enjoyed seeing how Havelock came to appreciate Mary's abilities. There were some really romantic scenes between them, even though neither of them thought of them that way. But when the staff returned, Mary and Havelock ran into problems as their own beliefs and expectations resurfaced. When Havelock's sister arrived, Mary's self doubts came back, causing her to pull away from him. At the same time, Havelock didn't know how to make things right. Mary's frustration and hurt sends her off to London by herself, though she does leave something behind for him to think about.
The ending was fantastic, with both Havelock and Mary realizing they had made some mistakes along the way. Havelock was awkward and sweet as he made his confession and I loved the effect it had on Mary. The only thing that could have made it any better would be an epilogue a year or so later, to see how they are doing.