Poor William Tyler de Sayre, Lord Clun, finds true love while hoping to avoid the catastrophe altogether by arranging a marriage to someone he’s never met. At the same time, Lady Elizabeth Chapin Damogan, whose father betrothed her to the baron without so much as a ‘by your leave,’ will be damned if she marries a man she’s never met, much less a man who refuses to consider the possibility of love.
Heat level: 2
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Caz
The Baron’s Betrothal is a worthy follow up to The Duke’s Tattoo. Like the hero of that novel William Tyler de Sayre, Baron Clun is one of the so-called Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, named thus because of their audacity and courageous service during the Napoleonic Wars.
Our heroine, Lady Elizabeth Damogan is an independent-minded young woman who, at the beginning of the book, has fled London to escape the marriage that her father has arranged for her. Cleverly, she reasons that the last place anyone will look for her is on the estate of the man from whom she is hiding; and thus she ends up living in a small cottage on Clun’s land in Shropshire.
Clun is a giant of a man – tall, dark and intimidating – and when he stumbles across Elizabeth for the first time, neither of them knows who the other is. Although they have been betrothed for the past year, they have never met.
Clun soon discovers her identity, and decides to have a little fun at her expense by not immediately revealing himself to her, and teasing her about the decrepit state of her future husband.
While the pair experience a very strong physical attraction, they are also growing to like each other; and although Elizabeth is initially annoyed at Clun’s deception, she is nonetheless pleased to discover that her intended is a man she could easily love, rather than the “toothless old macaroni” of Clun’s description.
But therein lies the rub. Clun, the product of an unhappy marriage, his mother an incredibly bitter and malicious woman, doesn’t want a love match. He wants a sensible marriage, unencumbered by emotional entanglements – his parents had supposedly married for love, but their marriage had very quickly turned to disaster and he wants none of it.
So Clun and Eizabeth are at an impasse: he doesn’t want love; she won’t marry without it.
And thus we have the basis of the on/off nature of their relationship.
London society being what it is, they can’t avoid each other – and the more they see of each other, the more each realises the importance to them of the other. Clun and Elizabeth are a well-matched couple – her natural optimism counters his tendency to pessimism and while she is more than capable of standing up for herself (and has, in fact, had to be fairly self-reliant for her entire life), she nonethetless brings out – and quite likes – his protective side. Their encounters in the earlier part of the book sparkle with humour and good-natured teasing; and later, when things become fraught between them, their heartache and disappointment is palpable.
Both characters grow within the story, and their eventual HEA is well-deserved as they’ve both had to suffer and work for it. Elizabeth eventually comes to realise that if she is not to lose Clun altogether, then she will have to compromise on her insistence on love; Clun has to admit that he has, in fact, fallen head over heels and be prepared to trust Elizabeth with his heart.
Miranda Davis has a gift for writing spirited, witty dialogue and for creating likeable, well-drawn characters. In addition to the principals, she has created a strong supporting cast, which includes the other three “Horsemen” , Tyler Rodwell – Clun’s half-brother and steward – Clun’s harpy of a mother, Elizabeth’s reclusive father and assorted bit-players, all of whom are deftly delineated.
If I have a reservation about the book, it’s to do with the epilogue because I felt it was too much of a change in tone after Clun and Elizabeth had resolved their differences. I understand why it’s there and the points it’s intended to make; I just thought it was a rather traumatic – albeit perfectly reaslistic – way to make them.
I admit that although I enjoyed The Duke’s Tattoo, I liked The Baron’s Betrothal even more; the characters felt more naturalistic and the premise more plausible. It’s warm and funny and by the end of the book, I felt confident that Clun and Elizabeth really were going to live “happily ever after” and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next instalment.
Disclaimer: I know the author, read this book in an earlier draft and have proof-read the final version. That said, this is an impartial review, based solely on the writing and content.
I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too.