The more I think about this book, the less I can figure out what the hell I thought of it.
On the one hand, it's a Laura Lee Guhrke. She has become one of my "go-to" authors. The Guilty
series was outstanding, Abandoned at the Altar
is shaping up to be even better, and the first book in this series, And Then He Kissed Her, is one of my absolute favourites.
The writing is great, the H/h are well drawn, and the cast of supporting characters (especially the ladies at the boarding house) are either charming or exasperating, depending who they are.
I just didn't really like Rhys. I'm not even really sure why, because, within a chapter of meeting him you know exactly what he's about. Charming, insincere, self-absorbed, dissolute and irresponsible. When we meet him he is wondering if he could talk Prudence into a tup; he saves a maid from being raped by a peer, but sleeps with her himself immediately afterward (mostly because she's cheap and he can't afford to keep a mistress). He comes by his character quite honestly; his title is hollow and his estates are in ruins, mostly due to 6 generations of dukes before him who behaved exactly as he did. Creditors are banging on the door and he's reduced to dining-and-dashing at gentlemen's clubs and couch-surfing at his friends' residences. He needs to marry money. Huge money. And fast. I actually felt like Rhys was probably quite historically accurate. His description to Prudence of what peers did with themselves was hilarious:
"Darling, most duchesses are like most dukes. And marquesses and earls, etcetera, etcetera. We don't do anything. We lead terribly lazy lives in which we give and attend fabulous parties, gamble away our fortunes - if we have them - eat outrageously rich food, drink excessive amounts of champagne and port, travel the world, accumulate massive amounts of debt, and engage in outrageous exploits. All because the lot of us suffer from terminal ennui....Peers are the lilies of the field, my sweet. We toil not, neither do we spin."
Heh. Maybe I did kind of like him. See what I mean? I can't even decide what I think about the Hero. Towards the end of the book all bullshit he's been slinging comes home to roost (oops, mixing metaphors here), he realizes that he actually meant
all of it, and that Prudence was the one good thing he'd managed to finagle and he has to try to figure out how to keep her.
it was Prudence I didn't really like. I did at first - she was independent and sure of herself, but then she became besotted with Rhys and inherited gazillions of $$ and lost her marbles. Her ideal of marrying for love seemed anachronistic (HUH, you say? Bear with me, I'll explain). During the time the book is set, marrying for love was the exception, not the rule. Arranged marriages happened ALL the time - for money, social position or bloodlines - that's just the way it was done. It was expected that your dowry would bail out whichever peer offered for you. So for Prudence to be so set on marrying for love (and a penniless DUKE, nonetheless) and for her to be so outraged and vocal about her hurt when she finds out seemed wrong to me. For us 21st century women, sure. For a late Regency/Victorian miss? Uh-uh. And crossing the class lines seemed too simple in this story as well.
I've swallowed bigger loads of baloney in a historical romance, but I need to be able to lose myself enough in the story so that I don't notice myself choking on it.
it was the ending that clinched it for me. I know it's a historical romance and we all need our HEA, but for these two to get past the big lie would take YEARS, not a week. Years of him being
in love with her to prove to her that he means it; years for her to accept that even if he didn't love her from beginning he loves her now
AND ANOTHER THING!
The fact that Rhys' terrible childhood (oh, those poor little British kids shipped off to Eton and abused by their wicked, wicked mothers and evil Uncles) and his relationship of mutual dislike with his mother seemed to be thrown into the mix for good measure, instead of being used with any depth for what it was most likely intended. Wow, did that make sense?
Hmm. After all this I'm still not sure what I thought of this one. I guess I'll call it at 3.5 stars. Liked the writing, the premise and the supporting characters, didn't like the Hero or the heroine all that much.