After a long journey, Sabrina Jeffries’ Swanlea Spinsters series has finally come to an end. It has been too far away from the main characters of the Swanlea sisters, and it really, really should have stopped two books ago. Be that as it may, Married to the Viscount, which was first published in 2004, seems to me a nice, sweet end for a series which has to pass a twisted road before reaching its peak. It has, thankfully, a quite different type of female character and a quite nice premise. It’s not the best in the series, and it’s certainly not Jeffries’ best work also, but it is enough to compensate for the failure of the previous two installments.
Set in a Regency era of early 1820s, the story opens with the long voyage the Viscount Ravenswood takes to America with his younger brother, Nathaniel. Nat intends to have some shares in a medical company owned by Doctor Mercer in Philadelphia, so he needs Spencer Law, the Viscount, to see around and then support him to buy the shares. Upon their arrival, they get to see Abigail Mercer instead, and Spencer can’t help but fall in love with her, instantly. Unfortunately, as much as he adores her, he never has any intention to marry and settle down with a family, so he avoids having some serious relationship with the half-Indian woman. But Nat has another plan.
Back to England, Spencer finds that he is married to Abby Mercer. On the one hand, it’s a miracle to him for he is indeed in love with her, but on the other it’s a pure disaster for it undoubtedly ruins all his plans for his life. But Nat has her dowry and disappears, so although Abby knows she cannot remain married to the Viscount, she cannot get back to America, either. Spencer offers her a stay in London as his sham wife until he can locate his brother and recover her dowry, and Abby happily accepts the offer in the hope of convincing him that they truly can live happily ever after.
The cheerful, innocent, yet determined Abby Mercer can indeed make a balance for the stubborn, commanding, officious Viscount Ravenswood. She is not the common stubborn woman we usually find in Sabrina Jeffries’ historical romance novels, despite being so determined, but she’s nevertheless a strong woman of her own character. Once she says:
“A woman of character stands by her choices.”
However, that’s not the most interesting thing about her. It’s her portrayal as an American that attracts me so much: She has a loose tongue, an inappropriate, unladylike manner, and, borrowing the old-fashioned European term for Americans, uncultured. She is all the European people have in mind about Americans, and the fact that Jeffries made an effort, with quite a success, to put that kind of character in contrast with the English people of the old Regency era is so brilliant, and I’m very appreciative of it. To match her, Jeffries created the character of Spencer Law. This was not the first time I found a stubborn man in her stories, but the deep-rooted fear and everlasting wound he has make him just realistically the way he is. He might be despicable and disgusting at some point, but at least he has a good reason for being so, however inexcusable it is in the eye of the reader.
Married to the Viscount is actually a quite nice story, a pure drama without trying to act like a spy novel or being mysterious with a crime feature. It’s somewhat unusual to have this kind of love story, except that it disgracefully falls back into Jeffries’ same pattern with a taste of “agreement” between the two main characters at the beginning of the book. The storyline is a bit clumsy where Abby and Spencer has a quarrel in one chapter, and then in the next chapter they suddenly jump to two weeks after and their war in silence breaks up in a sexual intercourse. I know this is a romance, a bodice-ripper if you will, but I really hope that a problem between two people is not easily settled with sex. But, despite the poor plot, the narrative is nicely written and sweetly delivered. It makes you smile at some parts and laugh at another. Jeffries might not put some jokes along the book, but it’s still quirkily, groggily funny.
Overall, Married to the Viscount by Sabrina Jeffries is a consolation for a broken heart after having two disappointments. It’s nice, it’s sweet, and it has quite different characters. It’s still not the best in the series, but I liked it enough to recommend it to all historical romance fans.