Title: The Bad Luck Bride
Author: Janna MacGregor
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: May 2017
Length: 337 pages
Series?: The Cavensham Heiresses #1
Genre: Historical Romance
IS MARRIAGE A BLESSING OR A CURSE?
A man of honor, Alexander Hallworth, Marquess of Pembrooke, will not rest until he exacts revenge on the man who destroyed his family. Just one more piece must fall into place for him to succeed he needs to convince his enemy s fiancee, the tragically beautiful Lady Claire Cavensham, to marry him instead.
Lady Claire s curse has always left her one misstep away from social ruin her past three engagements have gone awry, and now her fourth is headed in the same direction. . .until Alex, a man she barely even knows, shocks the ton and Claire by announcing their engagement. What begins as a sham turns into something deeper, and more passionate, than either Claire or Alex could have imagined. But when their secrets are revealed, will the truth behind their union scandalize them both or is their love strong enough to break the curse and lead them toward their happily ever after?
Following the death of his beloved sister, Alexander Hallworth vows revenge against her transgressor and the father of her unborn child – Lord Paul Barstowe. When his attempt at killing him in a duel is thwarted by the Earl of Somerton, Alex must find another route to exact his revenge. Lord Paul has never been able to pay his gambling debts himself, so the Marquess of Pembrooke sets him up to take a fall – a hard one – and reap his fiance in the process. Lady Claire endures the brunt of the ton and rumors of her curse. When her fourth – and surely final – fiance breaks his engagement, she is in a vulnerable state. Alex agrees to all of Claire’s wishes for the marriage, allowing her to keep complete control and autonomy over her wealth, properties, and her mother’s charity. Their days following at Pemhill are wonderful. They begin to grow together and learn more about one other, share their vulnerabilities and glimmers of their pasts. Until one night Claire overhears a converastion between Alex and Somerton that ruins the rosy world she’s been cocooned in. She returns the next morning to her family in London, and Alex is left to fight to get her back. It won’t be easy, either, with more of his deceptions coming to light and Lord Paul making his appearance at every turn.
Lady Claire Cavensham – the only child of the late Duke and Duchess of Langham, very wealthy
Alex Hallworth – Marquess of Pembrooke, exacting revenge for his sister’s death
Lord Paul Barstowe – Claire’s fourth fiance with debt beyond his years
Nicholas St. Mauer – Earl of Somerton, Alex’s closest friend
Sebastian Cavensham – Duke of Langham, Claire’s uncle
Ginny Cavensham – Sebastian’s wife
Michael Cavensham – Marques of McCalpin, son of the Duke of Langham, Claire’s cousin
Lord William Cavensham – Michael’s younger brother
Lady Emma Cavensham – Michael and William’s younger sister
“Nonetheless, it seems to me you should have some reason to marry her other than revenge.”
The Highs and Lows
- The Curse. Remembering that this is a historical setting and not contemporary times, ended relationships raise eyebrows and wag salacious tongues during this time that cause damaged reputations that are beyond repair. Lady Claire Cavensham is a wealthy only child of the late Duke and Duchess of Langham and resides with relatives who’ve treated her like their own daughter. Her beauty alone makes her a highly sought-after debutante. Add in her wealth and she has her pick of any man. And she has – she’s been engaged four times. That’s quite damning for the time, and thus the curse was born. All of her fiances have met untimely incidents – quite untimely for her. One died, one lost a leg, another lost a duel. Now she has hopes that she is done with the curse forever, and fears that she is not. While Claire doesn’t love Lord Paul, she wants to be rid of the curse and she wants to move forward with her life. Her fear is soon grounded when her fourth fiance, Lord Paul Barstowe, does not show at the ball in honor of their impending engagement announcement. Throughout the entire novel he continues to appear and manipulate Alex with taunts and Claire with professions of love, doing his level best to win her – and her money – back.
- Alex. He is dark, suave, and handsome. An eligible bachelor. He’s also a very angry man, still grieving over the suicide of his younger sister – inexplicably pregnant and spurned by Lord Paul. Alex wants revenge for his sister’s death and has no regard for the consequences or effects of his actions. After the intervention of a friend in the opening scene in an attempt to duel Lord Paul, Alex diverts to a different plan to extract his revenge in a much more public and humiliating way of ruin. He will lie and manipulate anything to suit his purposes, uses every means to its end, regardless of who could be hurt in the crossfire.
- Alice’s Death. There is more to Alice’s suicide – and her pregnancy – than are first revealed. Slowly the truth of the matter is unraveled throughout the book, and the anguish over Alice’s predicament brought tears to my eyes. Despite what Alice left in her letter to not blame Lord Paul, things are not quite as they seem.
- The Plan. Lord Paul is already destitute, scheming his way into a marriage with Lady Claire to cover his assets. Deeply in debt from his gaming addiction, Lord Paul will take any out when presented to him. Preying on the downfall of Lord Paul, the Marquess of Pembrooke arranges for an endless line of credit extended to him from the gaming hells. When Lord Paul racks up impossible amounts, Alex makes his own bet. Then the deal is struck: in exchange for a debt pay-off, Lord Paul will not marry Lady Claire. Instead, he will break his short-lived engagement. This leaves Claire hiding out in the gardens the night of their ball, knowing no matter how long she waits he will not turn up. It is here that Alex follows her in the midst of a flashback, disoriented and afraid. In a mad act of calming Lady Claire’s panic, they are caught in a compromising situation. Despite being unsuccessful in Claire’s agreement to his scheme, once caught Alex assures everyone that the hurting, embarrassed, and humiliated Claire need not suffer through any more horrible a scandal – he will marry her!
- Earl of Somerton. He proves a life-long friend to Alex, and saves him from some of the worst decisions he chose to make. From the start and all the way through, while he doesn’t support Alex’s plans, he doesn’t try to stop them, either. He does, however, highly caution him and try to talk him out of exacting his revenge by using Claire. On the day of their wedding, Alex requests his help in his dealings. Somerton agrees – on the condition Alex tell Claire everything once they reach Pemhill. His warnings go unheeded.
- Suspicions. While Alex tries steering Claire clear of every conversation that could potentially mar his character – and intentions – he begins to suspect that Claire is not quite who she professed to be. Especially with a rumor swirling that she has a lover…and then finding Lord Paul all but squealing the terms of his rescue to Claire just days before the marriage. He wants no fingers pointing to him or his devious deceptions, but is quick to believe the worst of Claire based on assumptions and a mind gone wild. So he hires a private investigator and uncovers a nice sum of money sent to a solicitor and her regularly purchasing men’s clothing. Then a mysterious be appears at White’s under the initials LP that Claire will not be married to him on their wedding day – implication of the curse striking again. A guarantee she’ll marry him. Claire is terrified Alex will discover her unusual reaction to storms, a long-held fear from her childhood. In truth, it is a trigger of PTSD, and rightly so. Her efforts to cover her crippling fear do nothing but incite Alex to continue believing he’s been cuckolded.
- Claire’s Tragedy. Claire is terrified of storms. She lost her parents in a raging storm. There are more details than just being caught in a bad storm that aren’t fully revealed until the very end, and it is heartbreaking what little Claire endured. All ties to that night are continually spurned on in Alex’s suspicions and it takes a series of people and then finally Claire herself for him to understand the full ramifications of her fears – what she considers her greatest shame.
- Guilt. All along, from the very beginning, Alex assures himself he will protect Claire and keep her safe. There are different moments when he expresses genuine concern for her and riddles over the gossip and pain that has followed Claire all her life. Just days after arriving at Pemhill, after rescuing Claire from the neighboring home she hasn’t seen in 14 years, Alex contemplates his guilt. He knows he should turn back now and admit what he’s done before it’s too late. Intentions, intentions. It seems, however, he does have a redeeming quality after all.
- The Witching Ball. When Alex first come to Langham Hall to discuss the terms of the marriage, he and Claire share a secret with each other. Claire’s secret involved sneaking out to go see a gypsy, where she purchased a witching ball. She tells him she keeps it in her room. It is to trap curses and keep them from harming loved ones, appropriate for her rumored curse. Alex tells her to bring it with her when they marry and later hangs it in her window. Despite being away in the country, the rumor of the curse follows her. There is whispering among the staff. Alex tries to quash it and even assigns a loyal groomsman to accompany Claire. Following a jealous evening, Claire discovers the truth. She makes her own arrangements and leaves. It broke my heart the day that she left a letter for Alex and the box that contained her witching ball – smashed to pieces. “The pieces symbolized her trust that he had stupidly taken for granted.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this read! I loved Claire’s character and I understood the great impact her childhood tragedy held over her. In that time, as she said herself, if anyone truly knew how badly she reacted in storms, she could have been sent off to an asylum. Her PTSD is triggered by storms, and the final one in the book warmed my heart and showed some redemption for her marriage. The plotline was complex – and at times a little convoluted – and kept me intrigued. At the same time, I (rightfully so) hated Alex’s character and everything he done to exact his revenge, but he oh-so-slowly realized his idiocy. The dissenting characters warmed my heart, helping guide Alex in the right direction to save his marriage and hold up the mirror to show him what an, ahem, backside he was being. I’m looking forward to seeing Somerton get his own book!
Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers.