Thursday, March 5, 2015

Married to a Perfect Stranger by Jane Ashford

Mary Fleming and John Bexley are the "white sheep' of their large families, written off as hapless, boring—and thus suitable for each other. But they're no sooner married than John is sent off on a two-year diplomatic mission.

Upon his return, John and Mary find that everything they thought they knew about each other is wrong. They've changed radically during the long separation. They have to start all over. It's surprising, irritating—and somehow very exciting...

Type: Historical Romance
Heat: 2 out of 5
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Imagine getting married--an arranged one,of course, so really you're basically strangers--then mere weeks later your husband is pulled away on an almost 2 year mission to China. And he's just returned. He's a different man but are you. And now you're having to make a life together.

Yeah. Pretty much, Mary's life has gotten rather...difficult as of late. Especially since her husband is expecting the demure biddable wife he left behind years earlier and instead has found a rather take charge woman who controls things around her and has thoughts and opinions all of her own. And he is...less than pleased about this change. Oh dear!

So I really liked the storyline. I'm always intrigued by arranged marriages. Kind of like the whole fake mates storyline which is my favorite. And these two had a rough go at the start. Whew boy. It always gets me thinking about life back then and how difficult and few choices women had in most aspects of their lives. It's such a foreign concept to me.

Alright, these two. John...was quite the ass there at the start in regards to how Mary had changed over their time apart (and oh he had his moments all throughout). I was so ready for Mary to give him a good dressing down over his attitude towards her but in the end she only gave him a little grief. I liked her though. She's a nice woman, talented--she does amazing portraits--and trying so hard to just be heard by those around her and to make a life for them. John did come around though and had some good qualities. The man is very dedicated to his work and protecting his country and he doesn't hesitate to jump into action and get his hands dirty. In the end I was okay with both of them though they didn't leave a huge impression on me.
It was hard to recall how angry he'd been then that she wasn't the Mary his mother had chosen for him: submissive, quiet, empty-headed, boring. Thank God she'd changed! He wouldn't have that Mary back under any circumstances, he realized. 
My favorite thing was Mary's talent. She paints/draws portraits but they always reveal more than there is to the eye and seem to show he inner characteristics of those she's painting. I would have loved to see the actual pictures she created. I liked watching her come alive when she painted and my heart broke for her when her art caused trouble in her life (in a very unjust way).

There's some light mystery/drama regarding John's work with the Foreign Office that wasn't too suspenseful but added some interesting bits and pieces to the story and their lives. You really do get a good feel for their life. For the difficulties of being tied to someone you really don't know, of setting up a home together and just the day to day things that made up their existence--dealing with servants, meeting neighbors, dangers of house fires, etc.

Overall, I enjoyed Married to a Perfect Stranger. While it wasn't a spectacular read and it took a little time to adjust to the author's writing style--it transfers often and quickly between Mary and John's thoughts with no real indication it's going to happen-- it was a pleasant overall read. It worked for a relaxing evening in when I just needed a bit of a diversion.

Have you read Ashford? What did you think?
Any suggestions for another to try from her?
Do you have a favorite arranged marriage story to rec?


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