The Marriage Contract
by Cathy Maxwell, historical (2001)
Avon, $6.50, ISBN 0-380-80833-1


Anne Burnett is a poor relation stuck with a family who only feeds and takes her in reluctantly. When she is practically forced to wed the Earl of Tiebauld by proxy, she is reluctant - they do call him mad - but the Earl's dying sister convinces her that marriage can't be that bad. Anne will be given money and more importantly, independence from her nasty relatives. With that, Anne heads off to merry ol' Scotland to search for her husband.

Her first meeting with Aidan isn't exactly one for the Hall of Fame. She gets into a carriage accident which leaves her coachman dead, and her husband and his loyal clansmen rescue her. Not before she delivers an injury at hubby's sensitive spot in her fear.

But worst of all, Aidan has no idea that he is married, and when he does, he doesn't want to be married and hence does all he could to drive Anne away. But Anne wants her money and promised independence, so not on his life, buster!

If there's one thing to love about The Marriage Contract, it's Anne. What a heroine - here is one who knows what she wants and damn if she doesn't try her best to get it. In Scotland, she knows for the first time what it means to be free and be her own woman. She is also attracted to her handsome hubby, and she will not let that stupid oaf get her down. I have a great time cheering her on. This is no stereotypical poor-Regency-bluestocking lass.

But I have no idea why, like many of this author's previous books, the author chooses to punish Anne repeatedly for her show of steel. Aidan keeps acting petty and even publicly humiliating her at places, and more often than not, Anne is made to apologize for trying to set her husband straight. Why is this? Aidan is not that great a hero to root for, he is the typical self-absorbed selfish twit who is determined to either break his unwanted wife or have her on his own terms and nothing else. It makes me mad to see Anne made to jump through hoops for this man's affection. Aidan is not that much of a catch, it's the other way around: Anne's the one who is worth her price.

There is sparkling humor and oh, Anne, I really adore this woman. Anne more than makes up for the insufferable boor of a hero and the irritating glorification of everything Scots (so what if they act like jerks, they're Scots, they're good... please, give me a break!). There are times when I wish this woman will just pack up and catch the first bus to LA, but I guess in romance novels, impoverished women can't be choosy no matter how much more worthy they are than their men. A pity.

Rating: 83


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