Series: Brides of Karadok #1
Published by Self Published on July 7, 2019
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Thrice wedded, but never bedded, Mathilde Martindale has long lived in the shadow of her indomitable mother, and meekly done as she was told. Until one day she decides to become mistress of her own destiny and leave the royal court to find her own path.
Married by proxy, Lord Martindale has never even met his bride of three years. Wed as part of a peace treaty, he bitterly resents the mercenary wife who cares only for wealth and prestige. And then he meets her...
Wed By Proxy is a stand-alone novel of over 111,000 words and is set in a medieval style landscape in the fictional kingdom of Karadok. Please do not purchase if you are offended by strong language and or sex scenes.
This was a much better story than the previous story An Ill-Made Match.
Some spoilers from prior stories.
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.
Matilde is pissed off when her husband has to accompany an old girlfriend back home, and new Matilde will no longer sit back and take it. The Mouse has become quite the Lioness.
“You know I wouldn’t go now, if I wasn’t honor-bound.” His eyes were seeking something from her. Permission? Nay, never that. Understanding? She said nothing and saw that pained him.
Swallowing the knot in her throat, Mathilde turned her face away from his searching gaze. Carefully, he cupped her cheek and stroked it with his thumb. She wasn’t going to cry, she thought blinking back tears, as he moved away. The rustle of bedclothes told her he was rising and righting his clothes to leave. Suddenly, she knew she couldn’t let him go without speaking.
“I don’t want you to go,” she admitted croakily, then took a deep breath. “But if you must, then I want you to take the opportunity to get that jewel back off Lady Julia. The Martindale ruby brooch.”
He froze in the act of fastening his tunic, and expelled a breath as though astounded by her sheer effrontery. “I can buy you a dozen rubies, Mathilde,” he said his voice hardening.
She folded her arms across her breasts. “And I would refuse them all!”
His brows snapped together. “What did you say, wife?” He took a step toward the bed. “That you would continue to flout me in my own house?” His voice rose to a bellow at the last few words, doubtless waking anyone sleeping down this wing of the house.
“I don’t want your dozen rubies, Guy,” she answered him loudly, her volume rising to match his.
She scrabbled to her knees on the bed to face him. She was still naked but did not care. She could feel her face hot and angry, but for the first time in weeks she felt fully alive and furious. For days now, she had felt nothing but crushing heartbreak and misery. Now she left invigorated, and warlike.
“I want the ruby brooch that is mine by right,” she announced defiantly. “The one that belongs to the Marchionesses of Martindale, for that is who I am!” She struck her fist against the mattress as she yelled the last few words and it felt good. “And I will no longer be denied, in my own house!”
He stared at her, his chest rising and falling. “I rue the day that Vawdrey bound me to you,” he ground out, his voice shaking. “You, madam, are a merciless, pitiless little bitch.”
She inclined her head. “And also your marchioness,” she agreed calmly.
He was breathing hard now, his gaze seemingly riveted to her face, then it dipped to her nakedness. Hot slashes of red appeared over his cheekbones.
“We’ll discuss this further when I get back,” he said in a low, uneven voice.
“If I’m still here,” Mathilde interjected, earning an incredulous look from him.
“Are you trying to reduce me to rage, madam?” he roared.
Mathilde had another crazy impulse to fake a yawn and see what that got her. It could well be over his knee, she thought, eyeing his rigid stance. What would that be like? she wondered and felt herself flush. Was she crazy? Now was not the time to find out. With an effort, she pulled herself together. Shrugging one shoulder, she dropped down onto the mattress and rolled into the sheets, away from him. Let him make of that what he would.
Mathilde lay silent, cocooned in the sheets for a long few moments, holding her breath. She thought she could hear his own ragged breathing nearby, and then the door slammed so hard the whole room seemed to shake. Mathilde smiled in grim satisfaction, though her throat burned. She could have sent him away with sweet words and wifely understanding. Instead she had by turns inflamed and enraged him. Her body ached every place he had touched her, and she was glad because that meant his would too, for her.
Doubtless her scratches down his back would smart on the entire ride to the Allworthy estate, she thought wiping away a tear from her cheek. Just as she would bear bruises on the morrow from the hard grip of his fingers, so too would he wear her scratch marks as a reminder of their tryst. Julia Allworthy would not have one ounce of his attention for the four day journey. He would be too angry to make polite conversation with her. He would be fuming the entire way.
When she fell sleep twenty minutes later, though Mathilde’s cheeks were tear-stained, a small smile played about her lips.