The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck is the story (obviously) of Charlotte Beck, an only child who was English-born and American-raised, and the grand-daughter of an Earl. At seventeen, she is keen to take her place in society, and wants to attend college to study mathematics so that she can prove to her father that she can work in the family business (very unusual for 1887). At her unofficial debut into proper London society, she meets Martin Hambly, the stargazing heir to an earldom. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start (she literally falls into his arms, while he is actually Viscount Alex Hambly, Martin’s twin brother), and common interests keep bringing them together until they find themselves engaged to be married.
I enjoy reading romance novels with the marriage of convenience plot device – two people forced to marry through a twist in circumstances beyond their control, who come to love each other as they work together to overcome some common obstacle. Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softlyis probably the best known of the genre in Christian romance, but many authors have successfully used a variation on the theme to produce an enjoyable novel with likeable characters that you want to get their happily-ever-after. The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beckis not one of these books. Why not?
Firstly, the marriage of convenience only occurs two-thirds of the way through the book, after the couple have had a four-year engagement. Admittedly, they are still virtual strangers at that point, having ignored each other for the entire period of their betrothal. Secondly, no matter how much I tried, I just could not like the heroine. She came across as intelligent, but headstrong and troublesome to the point of being irritating. Thirdly, this is supposed to be Christian romance, but the ‘Christian’ was so minor as to be almost an afterthought. Finally, there were a couple of minor plot points that were only raised at the very end of the novel and were then explained away very briefly, yet they seemed key to the overall resolution. As a result, the conclusion was not altogether believable, because if these plot points were important, they should have been introduced earlier.
This is the final book in Kathleen Y’Barbo’s Women of the West series, and really needs to be read in sequence. As the author says in her Acknowledgements at the conclusion of the novel, Charlotte Beck first featured as “an impish child in The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper, and then as a young lady longing for adulthood in Anna Finch and the Hired Gun”. Perhaps if I had read these first, I would have had an understanding of Charlotte’s background and issues, and would not have got confused at certain points in the story. Perhaps, too, I would have found her a more likeable heroine. As it was, I found the book confusing and the heroine annoying.
If you read and enjoyed the first two books in this series, you will probably enjoy The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck. Otherwise, I would advise you either start at the beginning of the series, or ignore this altogether.
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