The Bargain

The Bargain
By Mary Jo Putney
ISBN: 0451198646
Published: 1999
Pages: 384

Lady Jocelyn Kendal is running out of time. Due to a requirement in her late father’s will, she needs to marry by age 25 if she wants to receive her inheritance. There’s only one month left until her birthday. What is she going to do? The man that she’s interested in hasn’t made any moves to propose, and no one else will quite do.

Major David Lancaster is running out of time. He was brought back to London after the battle of Waterloo, paralyzed and half dead. His sister Sally nurses him as best she can, but theres not much she can do.

Lady Jocelyn meets David when visiting the military hospital. She impulsively offers him a deal. If he’ll marry her, she will ensure that his sister is financially taken care of after his death. He agrees and they marry without delay. What neither of them consider is what will happen if he doesn’t die. Luckily, though persistence and the skills of a pioneering surgeon, David doesn’t die. Now Lady Jocelyn and David must consider how to navigate a new life as man and wife.

This title was originally published in 1989 as the The Would-Be Widow.


I really liked this novel. Mary Jo Putney is a skilled author with 2 RITA awards under her belt. This story didn’t disappoint either. It is a 1999 remake of a story previously published in 1989. The highlights of this love story include the gradual reveal of the main characters and their growing love, the strong secondary characters, and the overall warm tone. The plot would not be out of place as a Harlequin Presents, but Putney rescues it from cliche by growing the characters and their relationships through hardship and romance.

I liked so much of this book that it was hard for me to identify weaknesses. All books have them though, and this one is no exception. I felt that the miscommunication between the main characters that lead to their conflict was unnecessary and frustrating. On the other hand, it was understandable in context because it directly stemmed from the trauma Lady Jocelyn experienced as a child of divorced parents in an era when divorce was uncommon and taboo. And if there wasn’t a miscommunication, the novel would have ended much sooner!

I enjoyed the tone and pacing of the story. The tone was warm and cozy. I fell in love with the characters because the author loved them. Despite my liking, they were not plaster saints. Lady Jocelyn, in particular, carried unattractive traits of arrogance and aloofness; traits common to her class and station. Despite this, I felt Putney overcame it by showing Lady Jocelyn to be interested in the wounded soldiers and her contributions to charities.

The secondary characters were also handled well. I wanted the best for them. They never became sequel bait, and I appreciated that their romances contradicted and exemplified aspects of the main characters pairing. The contrast was refreshing and brought important things to light in the main romance, such as : Marie and Rhys were steadfast to each other and desired to spend time together; Sally and Ian became better people by becoming partners.

I also liked how Putney brought in historical detail. In particular, I appreciated that she included the wounded soldiers returning from the battle of Waterloo. It firmly placed the romance in of regency England. It would have been a momentous event, but too many other regency romances set in 1812 don’t even mention the Napoleonic Wars!

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical fiction or historical romances. Read-a-like authors include Julia Quinn and Eloisa James.

About shortlibrarian

I am a woman working in the Twin Cities as a programming Librarian.
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2 Responses to The Bargain

  1. Kathy says:

    This sounds like a book I’d find relaxing and fun to read!
    xox Kathy

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