In Bed with a Stranger
Mary Wine
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In Bed with a Stranger
Mary Wine
370 pages
June 2009
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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About a third of the way into In Bed with a Stranger, it looked like it was going to become unspeakably tedious. The heroine, Anne Copper, has been sent instead of her half-sister to marry a Scottish Earl and has to maintain the fiction that she is actually Mary Stanford to keep her family safe (yep, not very convincing). Of course, if she sleeps with her 'husband,' she'll end up a courtesan or worse, so she tries to keep Brodick from consummating the union made by proxy previously. I had a nasty feeling the rest of the book would be filled with more and more outlandish ways in which Anne tries to keep Brodick from her bed and nearly gave up in disgust.

However, the story did actually move on and improve in the second half. Anne knows that Brodick needs to marry the daughter of the Earl of Warwickshire, not the Earl's illegitimate offspring. If Brodick finds out who she is, there will be big trouble. But this is a romance and, in the world of romance, important things such as social position don't matter in the face of true love. Phew.

The book ends up as an okay read, nothing more. A quote from Heather Graham on the back cover calls In Bed with a Stranger "definitely a must-read"; I disagree. The characterization is patchy, particularly regarding Brodick, who seems very indistinct. The 'baddies' - Anne's half-sister and her mother - are comic baddies. Anne herself varies from forthright and bold to a mousy woman hiding away in her room for a month.

Some vignettes of life at the time are interesting, particularly the situation of women being used as bargaining pieces in power struggles, but the overall historical setting isn't convincing. This is a read for those who aren't so desperate for a well-constructed story but who more enjoy reading about relationships - sometimes in reasonable detail.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Helen Hancox, 2010

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