Reviewed by EBookObsessed on

4 of 5 stars

We meet Mathilde Martindale in the Her Baseborn Bridegroom (formerly Her Bastard Bridegroom). She barely makes a peep to Linnet Vawdrey and is almost an embarrassment to her mother for her lack of conversation. As Linnet becomes friendly with Mathilde's mother, we don't give Mathilde much thought until we meet her again in His Forsaken Bride and she becomes one of Fenella's nerdy friends. We to find that there is nothing wrong with Mathilde except that she has an overbearing mother who dominates her life and her very interactions with everyone. Her mother is responsible for marrying Mathilde to three different men (the first two who were half in the grave) and never allowing Mathilde to live with any of them. So while Mathilde has been married three times, she is still a virgin. It is Fenella Vawdrey who gets the shy Mathilde to open up. It is also at this point where Mathilde holds Linnet's baby and decides that she too wants to have a baby and again, it is her friend Fenella who encourages Mathilde that as a married woman, it is perfectly reasonable for her to go have her husband's baby. Mathilde then sneaks out of her mother's apartments in the castle with the help of the only friends she had before she met Fenella, the young page boys.

As we start Wed by Proxy, Mathilde has arrived at Acton March and was picked up by the local magistrate after she gets into a fist fight with a man abusing his horse. We can already see a difference from "Mousy Martindale" of the prior stories as traveling as a boy has allowed her a freedom she never knew as a well-bred, overly-guarded girl. The Magistrate brings her before Lord Martindale. Mathilde is still dressed as a boy but whispers to Lord Martindale that she is in fact his wife. Guy is intrigued by the woman before him and while he might not have met his lawfully, wedded wife, there is no way that this sweet-faced young woman before him is his three-timed married, harpy bitch wife who was forced on him by the King's spymaster after the Northern lords lost the war.

Mathilde tells him how she escaped the castle and has come to him because she wants a baby. He wants to get to the bottom of what this young woman is plotting but he can't keep his non-wife in his castle so he takes Mathilde on a little trip not far into the woods to his hunting cabin and he sets her up there.   Guy Randall, the Marquis Martindale, is a large man with a dark bushy beard and a loud booming voice, but diminutive Matilde is not afraid of him at all which throws him and intrigues him.   Guy has been forced into marriage with that harpy wife but he is an honorable man and has been faithful to her.  He is thought to be a woman hater since he never looks at any women.  At least until Mathilde shows up and he is tempted for the first time in his life.  His friends are also very concerned because it is go unlike Guy to take a mistress or to break his oath. The more time they spend together, the more Guy hopes Matilde will confess who she really is and then he maybe he will ask the King for an annulment from his bitch wife so they can marry, still never believing her statement of who she really is.

We see a lot of character growth in this story for sweet little Mathilde. She absolute blossoms once she is out of her mother's shadow. We also build a nice romance between Mathilde and Guy, at least until that heartbreaking moment where Mathilde figures out that Guy never believed she was his wife and kept her in the woods like a dirty secret.   We hear the loud cracking of her little heart breaking, but the new, improved Mathilde Martindale isn't going to slink off again into the night, she's going to make the big, burly lord of the castle come crawling back into her good graces.

Alice Coldbreath did a better job with Wed by Proxy than she did in the last story, An Ill-Made Match, in balancing the romance and story telling and putting her plot together. As much as I enjoyed this series, I have to poke at the holes in her plotting. After an Ill-Made Match, we get a page or two set up for this spinoff which has Lord Martindale is thinking of his greedy, title-grabbing wife and how he is going to find her and have it out with her. But this whole plot, which was set up in His Forsaken Bride, which was Book 2, is Mathilde sneaking off to find Lord Martindale. I understand that plots change as a writer writes and as the story unfolds to them, but you can't simply foreshadow and then change the plotting of your next book. We also have a conflict in the fact that we were specifically told that Mathilde's mother set up this marriage but here we are told that Oswald Vawdrey, the King's Spymaster, set up this alliance to keep Lord Martindale from having any legitimate heirs to his title and lands.

I like many of the the characters in this series but I find that the stories run hot and cold for me depending on how she flushes out their individual stories.   Some ramble on needlessly or don't give us a good connection, but this one definitely balance the story and the romance well and I loved the character growth for Matilde.

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  • Started reading
  • 13 March, 2021: Finished reading
  • 13 March, 2021: Reviewed