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Amanda Richardson
Marry Lies
In "Marry Lies," Miles Ravage, a man who never desired marriage, finds himself entangled in a web of lies as he enters a marriage of convenience with the cheerful and vibrant Estelle Deveraux. What begins as a desperate attempt to salvage his family's reputation evolves into an unexpected obsession for Miles. Stella, presented with a dream opportunity, must endure a year of marriage to the bad-tempered Miles for the sake of her clothing line. As they navigate the complexities of their forced union, they uncover hidden depths, secrets, and a consuming connection. "Marry Lies" is a steamy tale of opposites attracting and frenemies-to-lovers, with a voyeuristic hero and echoes of Beauty and the Beast.
With verve, wit, and randy confidence, the second standalone entry in Richardson’s Ravaged Castles series conjures a delicious marriage-of-convenience scenario, edged with shades of Beauty-and-the-Beast stories, and powered by Richardson’s commitment never to pen a dull scene. Instead, like a skilled lover, she dances with readers’ expectations, teasing and delaying, stirring anticipation for her couple’s slow-burning connection. The premise is pure froth, with a touch of darkness in the self-loathing hero, and a spark of defiance in the sharp-elbowed heroine. After a sexy but inconclusive encounter in Paris a year ago, the marvelously named Miles Ravage—a scion of the wealthy, castle-dwelling American Ravage family—encounters fashion-designer Estelle “Stella” Deveraux, daughter of the founder of one of Europe’s largest charities, in the most surprising circumstances: their fathers, not knowing that the two have previously met, propose that the pair marry, for one year.

The scheme is a PR stunt to rehab investment consultant Miles’s reputation as one of the worst bosses in Los Angeles. The prize for Stella: the money to start her own fashion line. Richardson grabs readers from the start with a sultry, unpredictable scene in Paris, which ends with Miles convinced that the “exasperating” but alluring Stella has rejected him for the scar that runs from chest to jaw. The story immediately leaps to the fathers’ proposal, then to Miles’s abashed realization that he needs to go along with it, and then right to what readers most want: these two crabbing over boundaries and logistics while both pretending they’re not turned on.

Dialogue is crisp and memorable (Miles: “We should probably discuss the wedding.” Stella: “That’s one hell of a proposal, Miles.”), and the novel, despite its length, surges along, hinting at Miles’s secrets—he’s a voyeur, for one, with a glassed-in bedroom and a penchant for NDAs—jealousies, and scars both physical and emotional. The escalating scenes of physical intimacy are precise, vivid, and potent, and the happy ending, while inevitable, satisfies.

Takeaway: Superior marriage-of-convenience romance with sharp elbows and vivid clinches.

Comparable Titles: Sara Cate, Shain Rose.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A