BLOG REVIEW: A Very Unusual Wife by Barbara Cartland

18y.o. heroine is not as ladylike compared to her 2 older sisters.  
But no one in her family knows to what extent.  She's not only been honing her equestrian skills with the help of her family's Chinese horse groom but also learning martial arts from him for some time.
She often secretly watches her unfriendly neighbor, marquis Hero, for his masterful riding ability 
and beautiful stable of horses.
So she's stunned to land him as her fiance just because her 2 sisters happened to be already spoken for.
Her wedding may have gone well.
But her wedding night does not. She denies her husband Hero sexual intimacy because she knows for a fact that he doesn't care for her
and she suspects he cares more for his most current mistress.
When he tries to assert his husbandly rights, she automatically defends herself, 
shocking him with her abilities. And rousing his curiosity about her, causing him to be eager to get to know her.
Her unexpected abduction puts her new marriage in a different perspective,
making her regret impeding the intimacies she wishes with him now.
How soon will he realize she's been kidnapped? Will he save her in time?

I don't know if I picked the wrong Cartland book to read but I wasn't too impressed with this one. It wasn't a bad read. Just a mediocre one, which sometimes takes me longer to read because I end up getting bored and distracted. It's been eons since I read a Cartland book. I remember enjoying it in my youth. There were certainly enjoyable moments in the book. Heroine was refreshing to read about. She was an unusual character. She wasn't a frail or goody-goody doormat type. She was smart, clever, independent, brave, and athletic for that time. She was too busy with her outdoorsy activities and other hobbies to sit around and worry about her appearance.  She was smart and strong without needing to show it off.  We know more about her than Hero because her POV(point of view) was what we got in the book.

I also enjoyed the inflections of humor, especially in the first 25% of the book. The awkward family moment when Hero found out it was heroine he was marrying and when heroine karate-chopped Hero on their wedding night were funny. I also liked some of the locale descriptions. The details about clothes & such seemed a bit too much. It would've served the 180-page book better if those details were condensed & more pages were devoted to Hero and heroine's characterization and romantic development. Maybe I've become spoiled by the romance books I've read since then, with more drawn-out romance and character development. Nevertheless, I give Cartland her due for writing historical romance for as long as she did (from 1940s to 1990s) and whose typical tropes of virgin heroines & brooding wealthy Hero became an influence to my much-loved Harlequin books. 

This book was able to depict a romance that sprung from a marriage of convenience. Ok, so maybe 2 weeks may have been a bit of a stretch of going from platonic interest to deep & intense love for each other. But there were unusual circumstances that excused the fast emotional turnaround.

         -------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------

1. heroine's character

Heroine kept surprising Hero with her unpredictable words and actions. Hero was a jaded man, especially when it came to women. He was used to the games women played to get and keep his attention. Heroine didn't play those mind games nor did she know how. She didn't dress fashionably nor even took the time to look at the mirror. He was taken aback that she didn't consider herself beautiful and really had no interest in chasing after it. She not only accepted what she viewed was her lot in life but was quite happy pursuing other endeavors (i.e., riding horses, reading books, practicing martial arts, learning Buddhist philosophy & other subjects). She may have been young but she was more intelligent and well-versed than any woman he'd been with. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind, although she didn't go out of her way to shock people for shock value. She was honest and firm in her convictions. Her using physical force to stop him on their wedding night certainly showed him that she couldn't be pushed around. Being rejected by a woman was not something he was used to. She earned his respect and curiousity by rejecting him the way she did. He found himself learning from her and that was new for him. To learn from a woman.

2. their marriage of convenience (MOC)

Given that MOC's were a norm in 17th-century England, couples were essentially stuck together & must make do with their respective spouse. Titled men often did take mistresses when they couldn't make do with the wives they were stuck with. And marquis Hero wasn't opposed to continuing his affair with his married mistress, when he told her that he was getting married. But he seemed to have changed his mind about it in his first 2 weeks of marriage to heroine. Both Hero and heroine gave each other a chance to get to know each other and deepen their feelings for one another during their first weeks of marriage. They both spent as much time as they could discovering each other and being open to emotional and sexual intimacy with each other. Their attempts to focus on each other as soon as they were wed greatly helped in the quick development of their love, care, and respect for one another. It also was a big bonus that both of them shared an obsession with horses.

3. heroine's abduction

The traumatic event of heroine being abducted along with Hero's prized horses the 2nd week of their marriage intensified their realization that they loved each other and their urgency for greater intimacy. When heroine was still in her captors hands, she regretted turning Hero down sexually on their wedding night & wished they at least kissed. The most exciting part of the book was Hero rushing heroine home, after he took care of her captors, and hurrying her into bed. That part actually made me tingle and speaks to Cartland's writing prowess. The sex scenes were generalized & described in heavenly terms (i.e., stars, lightning, sunshine, flame). It's pretty much clean & closed door but the word “breasts” were used, which must've been quite explicit for Cartland readers. But maybe not. This book was published in 1985 after all, where bodice rippers ruled.

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The emotional tone of this book was overall tepid, except those humorous moments towards the beginning & the love wrap-up at the end, which was the only bit of sexual chemistry in the entire book. Part of what dragged the emotional tone of this book wasn't just the details about fashion & the locale but also about the Buddhist & Zen philosophies of karate & ju-jitsu. Paragraph after paragraph of it. They were interesting info but it sacrificed info about the main characters. There wasn't even one sentence that described Hero's physical appearance. We know he has dark hair, looked attractive, and was older than heroine. That's about it. We don't know how much older he was than heroine, if he had wavy or straight hair, if he was tall or short, or what color eyes he had. I'd like to be able to picture the main characters as I read and I could only imagine a hazy image of Hero. The book cover helped but I don't know if the cover came from Cartland's depiction of Hero's looks or not. I've read many a book where the models pictured on the cover looked nothing like how the characters were described in the book. I also would've like to know what happened to Hero's conniving mistress. Did she go away forever or did she try to make trouble for them? I wouldn't have minded a reappearance from her in the book since it would've added some needed excitement.

I moderately recommend this book.