To Marry a Marquess is Teresa McCarthy's second novel. In some ways the author's inexperience shows; yet the story is an interesting one and reveals the author's familiarity with the Regency romance subgenre.
Lady Victoria, reared by her loving aunt for nine years since her parent's death, discovers to her horror that her aunt inherited only debts on her husband's death and is now selling her possessions to keep house and home together. Feeling that she must in some way return her aunt's kindness, Victoria steels herself to elope with the wealthy Earl of Knightham, even though she does not love him. Her attempt to bail out her aunt turns to disaster when the wedding itself is an undocumented fiasco, after which Knightham is murdered before consummation can take place. Is she married, or isn't she? Victoria goes home and tries not to think about it.
Jonathan Kingston, Marquess of Drakefield, vows to find out exactly what happened to his friend. Having discovered a young woman awaiting Knighton in his bed, he assumes that she is a fortune-hunter and sends her away. He was once married for his money (the lady has now conveniently died) and vows that no other penniless chit will get away with such behavior if he has anything to say about it!
This scenario is one I have not seen before; I find it an interesting way of setting hero and heroine at odds in the beginning of the story. But I must admit that I have some problems with the protagonists. Drakefield, known as Drake to his friends, slams around in a temper much of the time, and Victoria makes one bird-witted decision after another. Their dialogue often consists of peremptory commands on his part and shrewish responses on hers. His attraction to her is unconvincing, since she behaves so foolishly. The author has, however, given them both reason, based on past experiences, to be cynical and untrusting with each other. And Drake's obsession with time is an interesting character tag, although I did not understand its importance to the story.
The storyline has enough complexity and mystery to create interest in how it all turns out. One minor character, a small boy, reminds me of the young Ramses Emerson in Elizabeth Peters' great mystery series in that no one will listen to him when he tries to tell them what is going on. Other characters, while not cardboard, are somewhat stereotypical.
In short, although the author has some work to do in terms of both style and characterization, she is capable of constructing a good story--and to most readers of genre fiction, the story is all. I look forward to the next book from this writer, because I enjoy observing author growth as well as character growth.