An Unsuitable Match
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
After a mistake, Lady Clarice Langham was briefly engaged to Alex, the future Duke of Strathmore. However now she finds herself celebrating his wedding to Millie and trying to smooth over the awkwardness between their families.
The current Duke’s eldest son David has always been raised within the family although he’s not the heir. Born illegitimate, the current Duke’s wife has always seen David as her own and as a result of this acknowledgement, David is far more widely accepted in others in his position. Although he will never inherit his father’s land and titles, that doesn’t mean he has been forgotten and he’s a much cherished part of the family. And David wants Lady Clarice as his wife.
Clarice’s father, the Earl of Langham has made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t consider David to be the right match for Clarice, leaving her torn. She loves her father and doesn’t want to disappoint him but her growing feelings for David are also leading her to believe that he could be the key to her future happiness. However Lady Clarice has a few secrets of her own and she knows that to be truly happy she needs to confess them, even if it means David won’t want her anymore.
An Unsuitable Match is a follow on from Sasha Cottman’s last book, Letter From A Rake, which was Alexander, the future Duke of Strathmore’s story. I was really intrigued with David’s subplot in that so I was really excited to get to read his attempts to capture Lady Clarice Langham as his bride once and for all. David is in a bit of a unique position: technically, he’s the Duke of Strathmore’s eldest son. However he was born out of wedlock and therefore his younger half-brother Alex is the one who will inherit the title and everything that is entailed upon the estate. Despite the circumstances of their births, Alex and David are incredibly close and David has always been raised as a part of the family and considers the Duke’s wife his real mother. He’s a bit of a rogue, having had several relationships with married, bored women but now that his partner-in-crime is married and settling down, David seems to think that it’s about time he started thinking about the future as well.
He wants his future to contain Lady Clarice Langham, who was mistakenly briefly engaged to his brother recently but the two of them face several obstacles. As well as the Earl’s objection, Lady Clarice is being pursued by the Earl’s heir, a distant and recently discovered relative who seems to have very sinister motives. David’s younger sister Lucy is doing her best to help push the two of them together but it isn’t easy, especially when them being seen in public together could have negative repercussions on Clarice.
For me, historical romances have become comfort reads. Sometimes when I’m struggling a bit with a reading slump or just looking for something really entertaining and soothing, I turn to a historical romance. I really enjoyed the first book in this series and this one was just as enjoyable. Lady Clarice turned out to be a very intriguing character – she could have been boring, with her desire to please everyone and almost sacrifice her own happiness but Cottman gave her such depth and a quiet inner strength that made her the sort of character you’d want to know as a person. She was keeping some very serious secrets and I was pleasantly surprised by the way that all played out. The Earl of Langham likewise, could’ve been an overbearing, blustering snobby Earl but throughout the story, it becomes obvious that he has a very clear idea in mind of the sort of man that deserves to marry his daughter and before he gives his consent he wants to make sure that it is absolutely the right decision and that his daughter will be taken care of, loved and looked after. I thought it was very clever the way Lady Clarice’s relationships with other people evolved in this novel as she evolved herself as a character. She reaches new understandings and closeness with her father, her grandmother and also David as she accepts the secrets in her past and attempts to deal with them and move forward after laying a ghost or two to rest. She also proves to be pretty brave and a decent hand at getting herself out of trouble.
I really enjoyed this follow on from Letter From A Rake and thought that David and Clarice’s story was really well executed. I loved the slightly different romance dynamic of acknowledged member of a prominent family but who is still a bastard and the daughter of an Earl. I also loved the Epilogue, which featured David’s younger sister Lucy in a hint that she’s about to finally meet her match – definitely can’t wait for that one! I’d really recommend reading this series in order so that you can really get to know this family and understand the different make up of it.
Book #183 of 2014
An Unsuitable Match is book #66 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2014
And now I’d like to welcome Sasha Cottman back to my blog with a guest post where she’s talking about the challenges of writing women in a regency setting.
Writing Regency Women
One of the many challenges facing writers attempting to portray women who lived during the Regency period (early 19th century), is to make them realistic while giving them a compelling story. Women back then were restricted socially and legally, severely limiting their lives and so many of the freedoms we take for granted.
How then do you write a heroine whose thoughts and actions, hopes and fears, absorbs and fascinates the reader? She cannot spend her time simply sitting in drawing rooms, sipping tea or eating stale cake at Almack’s Assembly rooms. (The catering at London’s most exclusive club was reputedly terrible.)
When I began writing the character of Lady Clarice Langham, the heroine in An Unsuitable Match, she was a mere plot device. I needed a muse for David Radley’s letter in the first of the Duke of Strathmore series, Letter from a Rake and she was it.
To make Clarice engaging and interesting however, was not an easy feat. Originally, she was meant to be feisty and opinionated, someone who would give the hero of Letter from a Rake (David’s brother), considerable grief. Fortunately, final edits of the first book had not been completed when I realised I had to make changes.
My light-bulb moment came during the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle in August 2013, at a workshop conducted by Kim Hudson, author of The Virgin’s Promise (Writing Stories of Feminine, Creative, Spiritual, and Sexual Awakening). Before morning tea, everyone sitting at our table, myself included, had dashed outside and grabbed a copy of Kim’s book.
On the flight back to Melbourne I took a long hard look at Clarice Langham and began to rebuild her character. She needed a solid back-story, one that had an ongoing impact on her life. A Cinderella story began to take shape in my mind. Or rather, a Cinderella plot with a twist, for as Clarice Langham came to life it became apparent that she didn’t truly believe Prince Charming was her knight in shining armour. Rather she suspected that he had his own, more self-serving reasons for declaring his devotion.
This is when the secondary character, the formidable yet kind-hearted Lady Alice Langham, began to take shape. Cinderella needed a fairy god-mother like Lady Alice, Clarice’s paternal grandmother. Someone who could bring a more sophisticated, worldly view and help Clarice understand that she had to come out of the shadows and deal with her past and all its demons.
At the beginning of An Unsuitable Match, Clarice is a dowdy recluse who is hiding herself from the world. She has a terrible secret which forces her to believe she is unworthy of love. A slow and painful transition begins to take place in her mind and gradually, her appearance. The price she has to pay for accepting David Radley’s passionate declaration of love is that she is forced to confront her worst fears. Clarice has to confess the truth about her past to her family and to the man she loves deeply.
I could have let the story run its course from there, but to me Clarice had to become more than a beautiful butterfly spreading her wings. She had to stand alongside the hero and fight for their love. By making her brave enough to face the villain of the story, she became a stronger character, one whom I could respect. A woman who had earned the right to claim her ‘happily ever after.’
Thanks so much for returning to the blog Sasha! For more information on Sasha, you can check out:
You can also check out my review of Letter From A Rake as well as a Q&A with Sasha right here