Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Date of publication: April 25th, 2023
Genre: Historical Romance, Romance, Historical, Regency Romance, Adventure
Trigger Warnings: Bigamy (off page and remembered), Sexism, Misgony
Series: The Widow Rules
Where There’s a Will—Book 0.5
A Duke in Time—Book 1 (review here)
Rules for Engaging the Earl—Book 2 (review here)
How to Best a Marquess—Book 3
Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat
Beth Howell needs to find her dowry, post haste. After her good-for-nothing first husband married her―and two other women, unbeknownst to them all―she’s left financially ruined and relegated to living with her brother, who cares more for his horses than he does his blood relatives. If Beth fails to acquire her funds, her brother will force her to marry someone fifty years her senior and missing half his teeth. She’d prefer to avoid that dreadful fate. But her now-deceased husband, Meri, absconded with her money mere days after their illegitimate marriage. To find it, Beth will have to leave town and retrace Meri’s steps if she’s to take her future into her own hands.
Julian Raleah, Marquess of Grayson, cares not a whit for social norms and generally growls at anyone in his path. Grayson has had a heart of stone ever since his engagement to Beth Howell went down in flames―long before she married that cad, Meri, and sealed her own fate for good. But now she’s on his doorstep, asking for use of his carriage and accompaniment on the hunt to find her lost dowry. Surely Grayson cannot go on the road with the woman who has occupied his thoughts for the past decade. Yet, knowing she needs him, how can he resist helping her this one last time? And maybe that’s just enough time to change the ending to their over-too-soon love story.
The last notes of the supper waltz hung suspended in the air much like Miss Beth Howell’s heart. In that moment, everything stopped. No one moved.How to Best a Marquess by Janna MacGregor
Miss Beth Howell is on a mission. She is determined to get her dowery back from wherever her deceased husband had hidden it. But, it will be a challenge with a brother determined to marry her to a gentleman fifty years her senior and who cares more about keeping up appearances than his sister. With nowhere else to turn, Beth decides to enlist the help of her first love, Julian Raleah, the Marquess of Grayson. Julian is hesitant to help Beth, not because of her reputation (being married to a bigamist will ruin a girl) but because he has loved her since he first saw her ten years ago. After deciding to help her, Julian and Beth are on an adventure. But, they both must be careful because feelings they have been denying are simmering just under the surface. Will Beth find her dowery? Will they give in to their feelings for each other?
I was so flipping happy and a little sad when I realized this book was getting ready to be published. I enjoy reading Janna MacGregor’s historical romances; this particular trilogy had my attention from the beginning. I was sad because the trilogy was ending. I enjoyed reading about wife one and wife two getting their happy ending and wondered when Beth would get hers. Out of the three, I felt that she deserved it the most.
I put down that there are trigger warnings in this book. I was on the fence about even putting them up, but I decided to do. So, here they are:
- Bigamy: Beth’s deceased husband married three women around the same time. They only found out about each other when his will was read. Beth mostly remembers Meri with a sense of sarcasm and exasperation, with some anger thrown in (she’s better than me).
- Sexism: This is Regency England, and men ruled the roost back then. Women were kept to the background and not allowed to make decisions independently. Their fathers (or male guardians) would secure marriages for them (which is what Beth’s brother, St. John, was doing at the beginning of the book).
- Misgony: Several men in the book looked down on women. Most notable were St. John and his friends. I wasn’t shocked by this because it did keep with the time (Regency England).
If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book.
The main storyline in How to Best a Marquess was Beth’s quest to discover what Meri did with her dowery, her relationship (past and present) with Julian, and their love story. It was a well-written storyline that didn’t fail to capture my attention. I did not find myself wanting to put my Kindle down. Instead, I was glued to it. I was rooting (and hoping) for Beth to find her dowery. I also hoped for her and Julian’s relationship to rekindle faster than it did. Not complaining, but the sparks were there from the beginning, and I got antsy with the build-up.
I felt Beth was the strongest of the three women in this trilogy. She lost everything when it came out what Meri did. She was shunned (and ridiculed) by the Polite Society. There was a point in the book where I thought maybe it was in her head, but nope, it wasn’t. She was treated poorly by her brother’s friend’s sisters and then again by the wife of someone Julian was hoping to connect with. I was a little irritated by that. The women (again, mainly Beth) were held accountable for what Meri did. Did she know that he married two other women? Nope, yet people were quick to point fingers at her. And if he were still alive, his friends would have celebrated it. It still makes me irritated even thinking about it.
I loved Julian and was horrified by how St. John treated him ten years ago. He was laughed out of the house when he asked for Beth’s hand in marriage. Why? Because Julian had no money. He was a poor Marquess. So Julian left and worked to rebuild his fortune by becoming a man of science (i.e., engineering, but it wasn’t called that back then). He still had feelings for Beth, and it was those feelings that led him to accompany her on her journey. I loved how Julian stood up to people when they put her down. He didn’t even hesitate and immediately put people in their places. On that alone, Julian was in my good graces. But he also gave Beth her space. Julian knew Meri had damaged her, and she needed time to get over things. He would let her go even if that meant breaking his heart.
The characters from book one and book two did make an appearance throughout How to Best a Marquess. There was also a Duke who kept appearing, that piqued my interest. I hope the author either does a series with him in it or a standalone book.
The sex scenes in How to Best a Marquess was hot. Once Julian and Beth decided to sleep with each other, it was terrific. I mentioned above how I was antsy with the build-up. Well, they didn’t sleep together until almost halfway through the book. The sex was also graphic. Again, I didn’t mind it and felt it added to Julian and Beth’s relationship.
The end of How to Best a Marquess was a whirlwind. Everything happened simultaneously, and I had an issue processing it. I had to reread the ending chapters several times to understand what happened. Of course, my failure to process could have been due to a lack of sleep (I stayed up late to read this book). My favorite part about the ending was the epilogue. I liked seeing where everyone was a year from when the book ended.
I recommend How to Best a Marquess to anyone over 21. There is mild violence and sexual situations but no language. Also, see my trigger warning list.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, NetGalley, and Janna MacGregor for allowing me to read and review How to Best a Marquess. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of How to Best a Marquess, then you will enjoy reading these books:
Other Books by Janna MacGregor