Title: A Brazen Bargain
Author: Laura Trentham
Series: Spies and Lovers #2
Genre: Regency Romance
Available: Jan 26th
Love soothes the deepest of scars.
Minerva Bellingham is at her wits’ end. Her younger brother, Simon, will have them penniless and on the streets if his extravagant gambling habit isn’t curtailed. An enormous debt to Lord Rafe Drummond is the final indignity.
Signing over her dowry is their only choice. Until Lord Drummond suggests something much more scandalous. She can keep her dowry-in exchange for the Bellinghams working three months as a housemaid and stable boy.
Scarred from his service to the Crown, Rafe recognizes the young Simon Bellingham has the makings of a good duke. Minerva is a different story. Her pure, delicate beauty only underscores Rafe’s tarnished, bleak soul.
Yet he delights in cracking Minerva’s icy reserve to reveal a fiery, stubborn woman. And Minerva discovers the gruff master of Wintermarsh has the heart of a poet. But before they can find a future safe in each other’s arms, a menace from Simon’s licentious past slithers back into their lives, forcing Rafe to plan the most important rescue mission of his life.
Warning: Contains a paragon of the beau monde who gets the hang of polishing silver, and a master of the house who’d like her to make his bed-preferably with him in it. Also passion unleashed with the mere touch of a finger. Readers are encouraged to swoon.
Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley
It was the little things that stuck in my head while reading this book, and sadly not in a good way. If you’re a stickler for accuracy and period detail, this book might not be for you. Along with my usual fall/autumn twitch, there were a couple of mix-ups between trice and thrice, I developed a real hatred of the word cabin, which was a little irrational but given the context felt off to me, and there were also a few other things here and there. As I said, little things, but they kept pulling me out of the story.
Probably because this tale didn’t really hold my interest as much as I’d hoped. While the conceit of having a duke and his sister work as servants was intriguing, I wasn’t all that fond of Rafe or Minerva at first, and Simon is a bumbling fool. Rafe has a dark and torturous past which makes him grumpy and rude, while Minerva has had control of her brother’s estates for so long she’s become arrogant, disdainful and also a bit rude. The pair of them are quite well matched, and it was easy to see why Simon had turned out the way he had thanks to Minerva’s handling of him.
Things do settle down as the book progresses and all three characters develop quite nicely. Rafe isn’t nearly so harsh, Minerva isn’t as arrogant and Simon actually grows up a little. I quite enjoyed Minerva’s time with the servants, even if she fitted in rather too easily with the staff – I would have expected local dialect/accents to have maybe tripped her up a bit, while housemaid Jenny has a rather extensive vocabulary that seemed rather out of place. There also didn’t seem to be all that many staff members for a house the size of Wintermarsh.
As the story progressed, I often found myself struggling to maintain an interest. I put it down at the halfway point unable to believe there was still half a book to go. Barely anything happens. Yes, Minerva and Rafe develop a relationship, but it’s slow going at first – before taking a couple of swift bounds forwards – and I kept waiting for something bad to happen just to liven things up. If I’d liked the characters more, no doubt I’d have been more invested in the romance, but mostly by the end I was just willing it to finish.
So overall this was just about okay for me. It’s an interesting idea and a good story, but it dragged in places and left me too much time to focus on the tiny details. Plenty of ground work was laid for future stories, and there’s a couple of appearances from the characters of the previous book, so fans of the series will probably love it. If you’re looking for a historical romance that’s high on the heat and romance, but less on the history, then this will deliver – I just hope you like the characters more than I did.
A Brazen Bargain is out January 26th.
Visit Laura Trentham for more details.