Book Review: How to Best a Marquess by Janna MacGregor

About the Book:

Title: How to Best a Marquess

Author: Janna MacGregor

Series: The Widow Rules

Page Length: 384

Publication Date: April 25, 2023

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis: Beth Howell needs to find her dowry, post haste. After her good-for-nothing first husband married her―and two other women, unbeknownst to them all―she’s left financially ruined and relegated to living with her brother, who cares more for his horses than he does his blood relatives. If Beth fails to acquire her funds, her brother will force her to marry someone fifty years her senior and missing half his teeth. She’d prefer to avoid that dreadful fate. But her now-deceased husband, Meri, absconded with her money mere days after their illegitimate marriage. To find it, Beth will have to leave town and retrace Meri’s steps if she’s to take her future into her own hands.

Julian Raleah, Marquess of Grayson, cares not a whit for social norms and generally growls at anyone in his path. Grayson has had a heart of stone ever since his engagement to Beth Howell went down in flames―long before she married that cad, Meri, and sealed her own fate for good. But now she’s on his doorstep, asking for use of his carriage and accompaniment on the hunt to find her lost dowry. Surely Grayson cannot go on the road with the woman who has occupied his thoughts for the past decade. Yet, knowing she needs him, how can he resist helping her this one last time? And maybe that’s just enough time to change the ending to their over-too-soon love story. 

LINKS:   Goodreads   |    Amazon

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My Review:

Financially ruined and with a reputation now in tatters, Beth Howell learns she is to be betrothed to another man of her brother’s choosing. Beth decides to take control of her life by retrieving her lost dowry. She enlists the help of her former love Julian Raleah, Marquess of Grayson, who once asked for her hand but was rejected by Beth’s brother. Desperately in need of the money Beth offers in exchange for his help, Julian agrees, and the pair sets off on a road trip that becomes much more than a search for her dowry.

Over the course of the trilogy, we learn more and more about Meri. Why did he marry these three women? What did he do with the dowry money? Were his motives as dastardly as they seem? Well, we find all that out and more by the conclusion of the story. I like how it all came together.

Beth and Julan have so much chemistry, and it is pretty clear from the start that there are unresolved feelings between them. The angst! There’s so much pining between these two, and it makes their journey super angsty and filled with sexual tension.

With two unconventional protagonists, the story sheds light on societal prejudice, double standards, and women’s lack of control over their lives. Beth and Julian defy the norms of society, and they are ostracized for it. Julian is an inventor and engineer who is on the cusp of massive success. An impoverished marquess, he is often judged and treated unfairly. And I hated how Beth was treated all because of something that was completely out of her control. She was forced to marry someone she didn’t love, a man who already had two other wives, and when his crimes are revealed, Beth is shunned, and her reputation is ruined. But she did nothing wrong! It’s terrible how two good people are unjustly treated for things entirely out of their control, but their situations definitely shed light on society at the time.

Other messages about not letting society define you, fighting for the people and things you believe in, and taking risks are highlighted in the characters’ actions and motivations. I thought Beth and Julian were compelling and layered characters who both changed and learned a lot about themselves and their shared history. Cillian, who works for Julian, was another fantastic character and often the voice of reason in a very confusing situation.

Speaking of confusing situations, the mystery of Beth’s missing dowry and what happened to Meri and the money is finally revealed, as Beth and Julian slowly unfurl Meri’s final weeks. I’m glad the women from all three books finally had some closure after the trauma, betrayal, and hurt Meri caused. And the epilogue is the perfect ending!

Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.



Favorite Parts:

  • The romance.
  • The messages.
  • Cillian.

Favorite Lines:

“I’m rebuilding myself or at least trying to. I don’t know if I’ll recognize who I am when I’m finished.” “I’ll recognize you,” he said softly. “No matter how you change, I’ll know your heart.”

You’re temptation, ruination, and salvation all combined into a frenzy I can’t resist.

Don’t let others define you. Define yourself.


  • second chance romance
  • road trip
  • forced proximity

4 thoughts on “Book Review: How to Best a Marquess by Janna MacGregor

  1. Great review, Julie. I really like the premise of this series and it calls to me, but I read another review that said it has some very graphic open door romance, is that right?

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