This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Signet
Released on April 5, 2016
Once again the author tackles difficult subjects while offering an engaging romance and a teaser of a problem for the hero and heroine to solve. It was captivating, thought provoking, and sigh-worthy.
This book can standalone easily. For those who have read the older Company of Rogues books there will be familiar faces, but for those who have not, the story won’t feel like the reader is missing something. The author added a note at the back that she is most definitely veering into new territory from now on out with the Rogues taking a back seat and new characters and their situations moving to the forefront.
Kitty Cateril has been a widow for two years and has been living with her late husband’s family on their country estate. Her mother in law keeps everyone in the deepest mourning and it is slowly stifling young-hearted Kitty. Kitty loved Marcus and grieved when he died, but her marriage had not been easy especially when wounded Marcus was in severe pain or his new helplessness got to him. He was a man, war hero that he was, but not a saint. Now she feels like she has to get away or go mad, but she has no where to go unless she accepts a position as a governess or companion.
A means of escape comes her way in an unorthodox manner. Viscount Dauntry, is in need of a wife. He is clear and precise about his expectations. She will have the running of the Dauntry’s country estate and charge over the recalcitrant women folk of the former Viscount’s. All this so he can live in town and go on with his life there. Kitty has her reservations, but this is as good an opportunity to escape as any. And maybe it won’t be so bad with an absentee husband and a difficult project to manage.
Braydon never wanted the Viscountcy and now he’s stuck with it. He has the Fifth Viscount’s haughty, stubborn mother and the man’s sullen daughter hating that he now controls their future and has stepped into someone else’s shoes. Braydon has work still to do for the Crown and he prefers city life, but he has to get the affairs of the estate, the smaller estates, and the family in order because he will not shirk duty even if he doesn’t like it. He needs a wife and has no time to shop around town for one because there would be expectations. The friend of the vicar’s wife seems ideal as describe- capable, responsible, widowed, no money or prospects, poor current situation that will make her willing to marry quickly… perfect.
And what Braydon gets is a fiery-haired, spontaneous, strong-willed woman who treats any discussion like a battle and, barriers like challenges. But she is also giving and compassionate and full of life. Too bad she won’t suit. But…
Braydon, for the first time in his life, whimsically does the unexpected by bringing Kitty home as his bride. What shouldn’t be now is and both of them feel the pull and the challenge to change the arrangements to something a bit more than convenient.
This one kept me off balance somewhat. This story is a swirl of elements with a blend of history, mystery, and romance. I don’t know if it was purposeful, but there were some sly references to young impressionable ladies reading too many gothic tales. Northanger Abbey anybody?
The story is long, but it only lags a few times and not for long. It takes some time establishing matters and developing the main plot, but there are a few subplots as well.
But, the story isn’t merely a romance with some history and mystery tossed in. The themes of this story give it depth and they are true to the time and place of the post Napoleonic War and Regency era. It addresses: people coming back from war broken in more than body, coming back to figuring out how to live in peace after war (No Vet organizations or hospitals or counselors), living with grief and how to properly mourn, how primogeniture of males inheriting titles and wealth can leave mothers, wives, and daughters fearful of their future, divorce and separation during that time, what it’s like to marry a practical stranger for a marriage of convenience, the hidden world behind closed doors of spousal abuse, women’s role in the marriage, home, and society. So much gets touched on.
But probably the biggest draw are the two main characters- Kitty and Braydon.
Early on, I thought for sure that the heroine and I just were not going to suit. She comes across a certain way and the reader is purposefully led to form these conclusions until the layers of Kitty’s past are revealed and suddenly her thought processes, warring nature, and prejudices make some sense. Kitty is an independent, strong-willed woman. This is a strength, but also a weakness for her because her temper and emotions lead her and, with all that indomitable will, she has to be careful to rein it in when a cool head is needed. She formed an early impression of Braydon just as he did with her. Both were mostly wrong, but also right. Braydon tends to gather his facts before he speaks while Kitty makes facts fit her opinions. So when Braydon calmly sets organized plans in motion without consulting her, but on the other hand, also hears her out and heeds her advice and words, it stops her in her tracks just like when Kitty’s intuitive and out of the box thinking comes into play, Braydon learns the value of her differences.
The marriage of convenience trope is handled well in this story. I had no trouble believing in the romance because the author doesn’t rush it along and she makes sure the difficulties as well as the slow-build attraction are there.
It was an interesting dynamic that Kitty is a widow who tends to want to take charge in the bedroom just as she does in all other aspects of her life. It occurs to her belatedly that Braydon also likes the leader role and might not prefer a wife as fiery and passionate in the bedroom. She worries what impression this is making on Braydon especially since Braydon has encountered several military men who were part of the Kit Kat social club and remember her warmly to him and he finds her more than once in a circle of all men who obviously admire her. But Braydon surprises her again in that he treasures her passion and shows her that he isn’t made of ice and marble like she thinks. Watching them get to know each other and appreciate each other is the best part of this story.
There were some family secrets that are nosed out and Braydon has a mission. The family secrets and Kitty’s investigation were more interesting than Braydon’s. Truthfully, I found the investigation he had to conduct was the least interesting part of the book and I was eager to get back to other things.
And for those who are Rogues fans, there were some appearances, Hal and Blanche, Stephen and Laura, and Charrington. Briefly in a few scenes with no big roles, but fun to spot them.
In summary, I found this a compelling historical romance that had unique elements, engaging characters, and spicy slow-burn romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #131 HR