Lovely, auburn-haired Georgina Fitzhardinge knew what was expected of her when the Earl of Trowbridge proposed:
Society expected her to revel in the respectability of this superbly suitable match.
Her family expected her to use the Earl's fortune to give them the help they badly needed and fervently desired.
The Earl himself expected her to be a charming hostess, an efficient household manager, and, in time, to produce an heir to his title and estates.
But when Georgina became the Earl's wife, it soon became dismayingly apparent that this handsome, virile, worldly man wanted far more than she ever expected to give, and Georgina would have only herself to blame if she didn't make it perfectly clear to her lordly husband that she had her own list o expectations--some of which might very well conflict with his...
I had never read Norma Lee Clark before but I am terribly fond of Marriage of Convenience stories so I decided to give this one a try. It was a complete surprise and I mean that in a good way. If, in the beginning, the heroine felt a bit cold and non-engaging in the middle of the story I was completely fascinated and I couldn't stop reading.
Our heroine, Georgina, is about to accept the Earl of Trowbridge's marriage proposal when the story opens. He is marrying for the usual reason, an heir, but also because he felt he could eventually love Georgina if what he senses about her character is true. Georgina, however, although not repelled by him mostly thinks of her duty towards her family. One must marry to have a proper place in society and if one can catch an eligible party and so help the family all the better for it.
Trowbridge has high expectations for his marriage but he is confronted with Georgina's apparent coldness and reserve. Unbeknownst to him she has been sadly neglected has a child, first abandoned by her mother and then not cherished by her father, and she has learned the hard way to always maintain her composure and not display any strong emotions.
This is no light romance novel, Georgina and Trowbridge must first get to know each other before reaching any kind of agreement and although she had thought herself immune to Trowbridge, Georgina can't help feeling hurt and betrayed at thoughts of his infidelity.
The story is told from a feminine view point, there is much made of the fact that all women should aspire to marriage because that is the only fate open to a young lady and that the kind of husband one gets can make or destroy your happiness. While we get to know Georgina - who needs to deal with her past hurts and trust her husband and accept her emotions - we also get to know her three sisters whose expectations and marriages couldn't have been more different. One is the society lady with loose morals, caring only for her happiness and flirtations and that happily cuckolds her husband another is the boring, and sometimes annoying, perfect miss who ends up with a husband that beats her but from whom she can't even run away without being brought back by her father, and the last one is sensible young lady who ends up finding happiness with a vicar despite an early heartache.
Although this is a romance and, naturally, there is a happy ending, there's much to be said about the lot of women in society during that period and I felt that this story reflected just that. In the end Georgina reflects on how happy she is and how lucky she was to get Trowbridge as husband as they really did not know each other in the beginning and instead of growing up and overcoming her fears she might as easily have continued trapped inside herself or abused at the hands of a less worthy man.