Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Rebuke? Censure? How dare she! Did she know who he was? What he was?
Marcus Wharton, the Duke of Blackthorne bought a young girl’s freedom with a gold watch and a knife, saving her from certain death. Instead of sending her home to her family as promised, he sent her to work as a servant on one of his neglected estates with his nephews. When a Pinkerton detective finally locates her and lets her know she is a wealthy heiress, Josie Wentworth makes plans to finally see her family. However, when she learns Marcus needs to marry for wealth, Josie decides to stay in London a little while longer so she can save her boys while teaching their uncle a much deserved lesson.
She was done being the Duke of Blackthorne’s servant. It was time to confront the man and make him pay for his dishonorable behavior toward her—and the two boys who’d had the misfortune to become his wards.
Marcus Wharton doesn’t want to marry again. He loved his first wife and her death almost destroyed him. Especially when he learned she had hidden her illness from him. However, his father left him with a mountain of debts that not even his first wife’s money could touch so he must remarry though he vows he will not lose his heart this time around.
His wedding couldn’t come soon enough. Once he’d had Miss Wentworth, the froth would be off the beer. The bloom would be off the rose. He’d be satiated and satisfied, and this unbearable longing would be over and done.
When Marcus meets Josie again, he has no idea who she is but finds himself falling head over heels all over again. When he discovers the real reason she married him, he must decide if he can stand living a lie or will is he brave enough to love another Blackthorne Bride?
I’ve long enjoyed Joan Johnson’s historicals. They are quick, romantic reads with clever characters, witty dialogue, steamy romances. Blackthorne’s Bride is Josie Wentworth’s story. The last of the Wentworth siblings, Josie was captured by the Sioux from her wagon train and hasn’t seen her siblings in years. Though I haven’t read the first three in the series, that in no way impeded my enjoyment of this story.
I love the premise of this story. Second chances, marriage of convenience, revenge, reconnection, and redemption. Josie and Marcus were fun to get to know as individuals and as a couple. Their dialogue flows so smooth and we are made privy to their innermost thoughts so we know what the truth really is. Marcus unknowingly fell for Josie when he rescued her but she was too young and he was engaged to someone else so he did the honorable thing and let her go. Their second meeting at his solicitor’s office sparks flames and only grows hotter the more time they spend together. They marry quickly and while Josie hasn’t been completely honest in her intentions, their relationship slowly flourishes and deepens as they become further acquainted with one another. Though it was Josie’s beauty and money is what initially attracts Marcus, it’s her charm, passion, honesty, and genuine caring of those around her that ensnares him. He gradually comes to realize that her pretty face hides an intelligent and complicated woman.
Josie also finds herself having to reconsider her feelings towards Marcus. He isn’t what she thought him to be. She can’t reconcile the man who broke his promise and left her to languish in servitude with the man who stands before her and treats her like someone precious to him. There is strong sense of convention and compassion behind his seeming disregard for his human obligations. His autocratic attitude is well ingrained but Josie’s little digs and ability to completely ignore him are very amusing.
He’d be damned if he was going to let some barely-out-of-the-schoolroom American girl shame him into changing his behavior.
He didn’t say another word to her, determined to show her his displeasure.
When the performance was done, she chattered on effusively about the play, seemingly unaware of his continuing silence. Which made him wonder if he was always this surly, so she simply expected this sort of behavior from him.
The love scenes, unfortunately, are far and few between but this slow simmer is perfect for show casing their change in attitude and deepening affection for one another. Sensual in its tension, this couple’s dance is a thrill to watch as Marcus sets out to seduce his bride while keeping his own heart firmly locked away. I loved he didn’t push her though by law he could have. He takes his time and is very nicely rewarded for his patience.
He stifled a laugh when he saw what Josie was wearing. The white flannel nightgown had a bow at the throat that was tied up tight. The blousy sleeves covered her arms to her wrists, and the heavy winter material left nothing but the tips of her bare toes showing on the Aubusson carpet. His breath caught in his throat when he focused his gaze on the glorious golden curls tumbling across her shoulders.
“I was in bed waiting for you,” she said. “I didn’t think about having to let you in.”
He saw the pale-pink silk sheets on the bed were rumpled, saw the indentation of her head on one of the pillows, and felt an immediate flare of pure animal lust.
She must have sensed his reaction, because she took a step back, gasped, and put a hand to her throat.
He took a step toward her, and she took another step back. He grinned wolfishly. “At least you’re headed in the right direction.”
She glanced over her shoulder and apparently realized that in a few more steps she would be backed up against the bed.
“I’m a little nervous,” she admitted, lifting her chin and standing her ground.
She looked flustered at his admission. “At least you’ve done this before.”
“Not with you.”
The main plotline is pretty low-key in terms of conflict despite its introduction. Grief is the main theme on which this story is built. Most in here are experiencing grief of some sort. Marcus still grieves for his first wife, his son, and his parents. Everyone he has ever loved has left him. I like that Johnston did not vilify his first wife in order to facilitate his relationship with Josie. Josie also grieves her parents, the lost time with her family, and her freedom.
I admit there was some confusion in the extreme lengths Johnson went to expose the culprit and the reasons behind their deception. It was melodramatic but Johnston cleverly uses it to interject and quick develop a humorous secondary romance. The story drags as we are waiting for Josie to come clean or Marcus to recognize her. A single conversation would have cleared it up quick and easy but Johnston choose to keep Marcus in the dark until it’s almost too late, using it as a plot device to force his hand and heart.
An engaging cast of secondary characters round out the story. Johnston flashes to Josie’s siblings on occasion, giving old updates on their lives and new readers a chance to get to know them. Marcus’s twin sisters and grandmother are quite amusing and it was nice to see the deep bond he shares with them. Marcus’s nephews are adorable though we don’t see much of them.
The ending wraps up the story in a nice neat bow, leaving us with a sweet epilogue that assures us of this couple’s longevity. Blackthorne Bride is another winner from Joan Johnston that gives readers delicious story of love, laughter, forgiveness, and family.