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The Marriage Bed    by Laura Lee Guhrke order for
Marriage Bed
by Laura Lee Guhrke
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Seventeen-year-old Lady Viola falls head over heels in love with the dashing Viscount John Hammond. It's not until after their whirlwind courtship and marriage that she learns the horrible truth: Hammond didn't love her; he married her only for her money, needing a small fortune to rebuild his ruined estates. Even more shattering was the knowledge that John saw nothing wrong in what he'd done, nor in the fact that he kept mistresses during their courtship and after they wed. Heartbroken, furious, and trapped in a loveless sham of a marriage, Viola vows to never again allow a man to break her heart.

John Hammond is forced to end his philandering ways after his cousin Percy and his young son expire during a scarlet fever epidemic. John is faced with a cruel reality; if he does not produce a legitimate heir, the estates he worked so hard to rebuild will some day fall into the hands of his last living relative, a wastrel if there ever was one. So begins John's scheme to win back his wife, Viola. When his demands that she return to his house and bed result in disdain and absolute refusal on Viola's part, John decides that less direct means are necessary to win his wife back; he proceeds to court Viola in hopes of rekindling their once fiery devotion.

Laura Lee Guhrke has a real knack when it comes to creating troubled heroes (think Guilty Pleasures or His Every Kiss). This time though, I just didn't find John's selfish reasons for winning back Viola very convincing. He never displayed real remorse for his years of philandering. Even after their eventual reconciliation, he admits to Viola that he's not sure he can remain true to her. His many mistresses were also treated in a callous manner. My sympathies tended to side with Viola from the beginning, more so since the laws of the times gave women little option but to give in to their husband's demands, no matter their status in society or personal wealth. Overall, however, The Marriage Bed is well written, with a lush, detailed historical setting, and two protagonists with realistic relationship issues.

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