I love historical romances featuring the plain, dried up old spinster. I always end up rooting for them more than the impossibly beautiful heroines with eyes that are limpid pools of ...whatever colour came up on the author's "spin the wheel, pick an eye colour" game. Of course, she's not really plain, just ordinary. And anyone who's read one of these books knows she ain't dried up neither -- just overlooked.
Nobody's Angel is the story of one such spinster. Susannah is a preacher's daughter stuck raising her 3 younger sisters after their mother's death. She has been so busy mothering the family that she has never had a suitor and she considers herself "on the shelf" at age 26. Her father, of course, is one of those absent/present parents so plentiful in romance novels. He putters around doing nothing but preparing his sermons and barely notices anything going on around him.
Susannah has decided that the only way to get the work done around the farm is to buy a bondsman. As scandalous as her 3 sisters think it is, she will not be dissuaded. The girls attend an auction and, more to be contrary to one of their neighbours than anything else, she bids on a particular man - a tall, dark-haired, dangerous looking man. After signing the papers Susannah takes possession of her bondsman, Ian Connelly, who promptly collapses.
Now, one of my favourite romance novel cliches is the one where the hero is injured and the heroine has to nurse him back to health. This usually involves sponge baths and shocking glimpses of his manhood, followed by hours of bedside vigil, and the obligatory sexual encounter while he is delirious with fever. I LOVE it - and Karen Robards is good at writing them.
The book clips along at a pretty good pace -- we get to know Susannah and her sisters and the dynamic between all of them. You also get to see what happens when you take a houseful of women (14, 16, 20 and 26) and throw in a tall, dark-haired, stunningly handsome bondsman into the midst of it!
The developing bond between Susannah and Connelly is really well done. She is constantly amused by his farming misadventures and he realizes that under the ugly bonnet and baggy clothes is an attractive, fascinating package. He flirts, he cajoles, he woos - she fights her attraction to him again and again. They bicker, they banter, they make love - in her room in the dark after they've argued and he's climbed in her window (sigh). There are passages like this:"As to why I did it," he near-whispered in her ear, his mouth nibbling her lobe in searing punctuation, "the answer's obvious: no man worth his salt, not even such a useless fribble as you clearly consider me to be, is going to watch his woman breaking her back over work he should be doing himself".
Then he bent his head to press a kiss to the sensitive place where her shoulder joined her neck, and at the same time one hard warm hand left her waist to cover her breast.
Sigh. And, because I can't help myself, like this:"You look beautiful sitting there spitting at me like a she-cat. All I have to do is look at you, and I lust. I'm going to take you back to the hotel and take off that delectable dress and make love to you until you don't have the energy to be mad at me anymore."
Another romance novel cliche is that no one is as they seem -- secret identities, murder plots and subterfuge. Love this one too, and it's here! Ian Connelly is really the Marquis of Berne - and his being sold as a bondsman is the result of an attempt on his life. He tells no one of his identity and towards the end of the book the reason for that becomes clear - another attempt is made and Ian disappears.
The rest of the book moves along almost too quickly -- the last 80 pages has some pretty significant plot development in it. If I had a complaint about the book it is that what Robards does in 80 pages perhaps deserved at least twice that.
I hope I have described this book in a way to make you all want to read it -- it sure is worth it. As with any good book there is so much more going on that I have described here. Susannah and Ian are wonderful characters and it's not hard to understand how they fall in love. The love scenes themselves are worth the price of admission!
All the plot devices necessary for a good read are here -- a spinster, a nobleman in disguise, a flirty little sister, some violence, some sex, some misunderstandings, lots of bicker/banter/foreplay, a breakup, a makeup, a separation, a trip across the ocean, London society balls, and an HEA that might make you cry.
This book review has been provided by the No Book Left Behind Campaign
- A Bodice Ripper Readers Anonymous group initiative to review the un-reviewed.