Release Date: October 1999
Author Site: http://www.maryjoputney.com/
My Rating: 3.75/5
Synopsis [from bn.com]:
First published as The Would-Be Widow in 1989, this intoxicating Regency has been rewritten by Mary Jo Putney to give the story and characters greater depth. Now titled The Bargain, it will charm readers old and new with its unlikely and outrageous romance...
To keep her fortune, a beautiful heiress impulsively weds a penniless officer dying of wounds received at Waterloo. But when the blasted man hasn't the grace to die, she suddenly finds herself with a healthy, vibrant husband who wants to renegotiate the terms of their bargain--and ultimately possess the heart of his bewildered bride...
I've only read one other book by Mary Jo Putney, STOLEN MAGIC, and I really enjoyed it. I went to Putney's back list and chose THE BARGAIN because it sounded good! It was first published as THE WOULD-BE WIDOW in 1989 and came out ten years later extended and revamped...
The heroine of the story is Lady Jocelyn Kendal who has a deadline to meet. If she fails to marry before her twenty-five birthday she will lose her inheritance to her uncle and wicked aunt-by-marriage according to her father's will. Not that Jocelyn really needs to money...but she refuses to let her Aunt Elvira get her greedy hands on the inheritance. And Jocelyn is really only interested in one man despite the many men who have tried to woo her. But there's no way she can convince the Duke of Canover to marry her in the 4 weeks before her birthday. Besides, he never seems interested in commitment or single women for that matter, but that doesn't stop Jocelyn's feelings for him.
While visiting a friend recuperating at the Military Hospital she realizes she may have come across the answer to her prayers. Major David Lancaster has been fatally wounded and is coming up on his last days. He isn't really afraid to die, he's more worried about his sister's well being and future. So after Jocelyn learns of this she sees an opportunity that she simply can't pass up.
The two decide to marry despite the reaction of those closest to them including David's sister Sally and Jocelyn's beloved aunt. In exchange for the marriage Jocelyn agrees to give money to Sally every year, enough to have Sally living very luxuriously. But Sally is rebellious at the idea. She cares about her brother more than anything and is determined for him to live despite this horrid arrangement. She seeks out the help of an eccentric surgeon who actually performs a very risky but successful surgery. With David no longer dieing, Jocelyn finds her marriage of convenience turning into one of inconvenience.
THE BARGAIN was sweet and impossible to put down. I haven't read the original version but I know I enjoyed this revamped story. Jocelyn is kind at heart and very strong-willed. I found her frustrtating at times though. Although she has some deeply buried emotional issues from her past, I still find it hard to accept that she just refuses to acknowledge her growing feelings for David as the marriage progresses. David is everything a proper hero should be; kind, brave, loyal, unselfish. And yet, Jocelyn only wants him as a friend or an adoptive brother! I wanted to shake her sometimes. But we all have issues so I didn't fault her for problems.
I basically enjoyed how the story flowed. There was even a secondary romance between David's sister Sally and the surgeon, Ian. It was subtle at first and even though it became a bit predictable at the end, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Sally and the doctor find their HEA. I'll definitely be getting my hands on more of Putney's books soon. And I think any romance fan will enjoy THE BARGAIN =)