Can he fool his new family?
John Fitzhugh Barrett, surprised to learn he is heir to a marquessate, is determined his new status won’t mean giving up his freedom. But as families from all over England descend upon Somerfield Park for the shooting season, their unmarried daughters are lining up to bag the newest trophy buck-him.
Or is he only fooling himself?
John’s instinct for self-preservation inspires him to divide his attentions between a scandalous young widow, and the safely ineligible Rebecca Kearsey, daughter of a destitute baron.
The charade gives John the illusion of controlling the game but when he loses his heart to the beautiful Rebecca, all bets are off.
Source: ARC from Sourcebook Casablanca via NetGalley
This book is a curious beast, because on the one hand it’s a well researched historical novel with lots of nice detail, but on the other it has a pair of characters acting completely at odds with the time period they’re supposed to live in. The plot too falls into two halves, with the stuff about John and his family being quite interesting – especially with his father – while the romance was a little too familiar and farcical for me.
I tried to like Rebecca, honestly I did. She’s the daughter of an impoverished peer who has always existed on the fringe of the ton, she’s also a blue-stocking with a particular interest in astronomy – she even shares my name. There were so many things about her that I should have been able to like. And yet… yes, and yet. The way she bosses John about and orders him to forgive his family, as if the rift between them is completely his fault – even after she knows all the facts – really grated on me. It might also have been nice to have found out more about how she ended up in the boxing crib at the start of the book.
Then there’s her behaviour. She mumbles and flutters about propriety, but by that point she’s already been in John’s bedchamber alone, has ridden for hours with him in an open carriage, then stayed unchaperoned at an inn – admittedly not completely overnight, but near enough. If she was really worried about being ruined, she probably should have mentioned it at any of those points, not when they’re just sitting in a garden. As for everything else that follows between them… It just didn’t fit in with a supposedly intelligent young woman who respects societal rules.
John has a few more excuses, since he was raised in the country and only recently came to London after the shock of discovering that he’s the legitimate heir to a marquess. He’s pretty stubborn and obviously wounded by his childhood, but at least he’s not malicious. I couldn’t quite work out what he saw in Rebecca, to be honest, though I definitely understood his stance when it came to his grandmother. He’s an okay hero, I suppose, but he’s going through so many emotional changes that I spent too much time feeling sorry for him to really like him.
Beyond these two there are a lot of other characters, many of whom take over scenes and chapters, keeping sideplots and undercurrents bubbling. John’s family get plenty of time and attention, as do his servants, while friends and villains have their moments too. If I’d cared more about the romance I might have been annoyed by all the side-tracking, but since I didn’t, I didn’t mind too much.
On the whole the research is good and the details are interesting, although I don’t think any Regency resident would have considered Somerset close to London. I also felt quite bad for the pink dress that got hanged in the wardrobe (surely it wasn’t that bad), nor am I entirely sure what chestnut rain looks like, apart from a shade of hair, but the occasional odd phrasing aside this book was a nice easy read with nothing too serious or upsetting.
Depending on how much patience you have for modern behaviour from “historical” characters, there is plenty to like in this book. I just wish I’d found the romance as compelling as the relationship between John and his father. It might also have been nice to have seen less of the other characters, but if I’d read the first in the series perhaps I’d be happy to have them all back. In all it’s a pleasant read, but not a keeper.
Never Resist a Rake is out June 2nd!
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