Marry in Secret
by Anne Gracie
Marriage of Convenience - Book 3
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
is an emotional, heart-tugging reunion romance with all the feels. Secretly married at the young ages of 16 and 23, Rose and Thomas are quickly separated when he's recalled to his ship. Scant weeks later, news comes that the ship has sunk with no survivors. Devastated by her husband's death and another soul-crushing loss on its heels, Rose never shares the news of her marriage with her family or anyone else. Four years later, after declining numerous proposals, she's about to enter into a loveless marriage with a duke when her bedraggled, but very much alive, husband crashes into the church and brings everything to a halt.
Captured by Barbary pirates, Thomas has endured unspeakable cruelty as a galley slave for the past four years after his uncle refused to pay his ransom. The only thing that kept him going was his determination to return to Rose. Finally escaping, he's made his way back to England with two goals: reclaim his wife and gather the necessary funds to return to the Barbary Coast to rescue the members of his crew still held captive. Of course, he doesn't expect to find his wife at the altar with someone else. Or determined to stay married to him when he offers to set her free. A lot of things have changed in the past four years, Rose among them. Will they find their way back to one another or be separated for good?
I adored this couple. We've seen Rose grow over the first two books in the series and she's finally ready to stand on her own and fight for what she wants. I love her steadfast support of Thomas, her determination to help him overcome the effects of his captivity, her love and appreciation of the man he's become, and her unwavering belief that they belong together. I also love how she goes toe to toe with him and refuses to be left behind. She's grown into a woman who is determined to stand beside her husband and protect him just as he protects her. I just wanted to hug Thomas. He's a good, decent man who tries to do the right thing but he's been through hell and the struggle to overcome it is real. He's been betrayed by those he thought loved him; suffers with not knowing if his crew still lives or how he'll get them home, and, after all he's been through, doesn't think he's worthy of Rose's love any longer. But he wants it. Oh, how he wants it.
Gracie is a master at bringing characters to life, as she's done with each and every one in this book. They all spring from the pages with vitality - from Rose and Thomas, to Rose's overprotective brother, Cal, to their haughty great-aunt Agatha, to Thomas's whiny cousin, and more. She creates such a realistic dynamic that I feel as if I'm right there with all of them, sharing experiences and emotions. There's humor, hope, poignancy, redemption, desire, and love and I was immersed in it every step of the way.
I've thoroughly enjoyed this family and eagerly anticipate seeing more of them in each book of the series. There's one more story to go. George is the forgotten daughter who was left to raise herself in the country and has little to no use for the society she's been thrust into since her family discovered her existence. She's more at home on a horse than in a ballroom, in pants than a gown, and prefers her dog's company to just about anyone else's. I'm pretty sure I know who her hero is going to be and if I'm right, oh boy, is this going to be fun. I can't wait!
Have you read any Anne Gracie books? Do you have a favorite?
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Marry in Secret
Rose paused at the church door. Lily and George fluttered around her, straightening the circlet of flowers in her hair, arranging the lace train of her dress. Rose stood, lively as a statue and about as warm. “Now, don’t be nervous,” Aunt Dottie had said a few moments before. “It will all work out perfectly, trust me, my love. I have one of my feelings.”
But Rose wasn’t the slightest bit nervous. It all felt strangely distant, as if it were happening to some other girl. She moistened her lips and waited.
George poked her head around the door, glanced in and pulled a face. “He’s there.”
“Well, of course he’s there,” Lily said crossly. Poor Lily. She’d been in a brittle mood all morning, trying to put a good face on a wedding she still had grave doubts about. Lily wasn’t very good at hiding her feelings.
What if the duke hadn’t come? He was notoriously unreliable about keeping engagements. What if he’d jilted her at the altar? Rose considered it briefly and decided that it would be embarrassing . . . and possibly something of a relief.
Nonsense. She needed to do this, needed to draw a line in the sand between her old life and her new. Cut the bonds of the old, and move on.
“Ready?” her brother Cal asked. She nodded and took his arm.
Now. She took a deep breath and stepped inside the church and stood blinking as her eyes adjusted to the dim light of the interior. A hush fell, followed by a susurration of whispers and rustling silk as the congregation turned as one to look at the bride.
The church smelled of flowers, spring flowers, and beeswax, brass polish and perfumes, a hundred clashing perfumes.
At the end of the aisle, in the dappled light of a stained-glass window, stood her future husband, the Duke of Everingham, looking bored. He’d removed his gray kid gloves and was slapping them rhythmically in his palm. Bored and impatient.
At least he’d turned up.
The organ played a chord that swelled to a crescendo, then died, and then the music started and she was walking, walking like an automaton, toward the altar, toward her fate.
She felt everyone’s eyes on her. She’d hardly slept. Did it show? Did she care if it did?
The duke stepped forward. Cal waited, his arm steady beneath her hand, ready to hand her over—like a parcel, like a possession, George had muttered once at another wedding they’d attended.
Rose glanced up and met the duke’s gaze. Dark eyes, gray-green, and cold as the winter sea. Perfectly good eyes, but the wrong color. The wrong eyes.
She regarded them bleakly. Time healed all wounds. Or so they said.
The bishop, resplendent in his robes of gold and purple, cleared his throat and they turned to face him. Rose hoped he wasn’t the kind of bishop who would give some long dreary sermon. She wanted this wedding over. Over and done with. No going back.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here . . .”
The familiar words washed over her. She was calm, quite calm. Coldly, perfectly calm. Not like last time.
The bishop continued, speaking in those melodic rises and falls peculiar to ministers. Did they teach them that singsong cadence at minister school? “. . . not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites . . .”
She shivered. Lord, but this church was cold.
“Therefore if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak or else hereafter forever hold his peace.”
Her fingers were freezing. She should have worn kid gloves instead of these lace ones.
The bishop paused for a perfunctory breath, then continued, “I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that—”
“Stop the wedding!”