>> Friday, December 10, 2010
TITLE: Provocative in Pearls
AUTHOR: Madeline Hunter
SETTING: Regency England
SERIES: Second in the Rarest Blooms series
REASON FOR READING: I picked this up right after loving Ravishing in Red, the previous book in the series.
When Verity’s past abruptly finds her, her recent behavior promises to unleash the scandal of the decade. Of more concern to her, she now has to outwit fate or be forced back into a marriage to a lord whom she never freely accepted. She never expects for the stranger who is her husband to create so much sensual excitement, however, or for her quest for the life she was supposed to live instead to reveal a conspiracy that endangers them both.We met both Grayson, the Earl of Hawkswell and Verity Thompson in Ravishing in Red (although Verity was going under another name there). Hawkswell's problems were made clear to us then. He'd married the heiress of a trade fortune for her money, only for the previously seemingly biddable girl to disappear right after the ceremony. All indications were that she'd either met with an accident and drowned or committed suicide, but there is no body, so Hawkswell is left stuck in limbo. As far as the law's concerned, there's no proof his wife is dead, so he can't inherit her money yet. At the same time, thanks to her greedy cousin, even as her husband, he can't touch her money at all. He cannot even try to get the marriage annuled. And meanwhile, his estate continues to deteriorate and his people to suffer.
Verity we knew far less about in RIR. She was clearly hiding out amongst the other women, trying to avoid someone, but we never really knew whom. It didn't, however, take that much brainpower to deduce she's Hawkswell's runaway wife.
It turns out that Verity never wanted to marry Hakswell, but was pressured into it by her (greedy, as we've established) cousin. He threatened to harm someone she cared for unless she did his bidding, and it was only after the ceremony that Verity discovered he'd already done what he was trying to hold over her head. Believing that her new husband was complicit in her cousin's actions, she decided to leave, planning to request an annulment in a few years, when she was of an age to take control of her life.
At the beginning of Provocative in Pearls events come to a head when Hawkswell accidentally runs into Verity. As far as he's concerned, that's it, she'll now take her place as his wife and he'll finally be able to get on with fixing his estate. But Verity has other ideas.
This book worked so well for me because I completely understood the characters, Verity in particular. Her actions in the past were, to me, more than justified. To the best of her knowledge, she planted enough evidence to be actually considered dead, which would have given Grayson exactly what he wanted out of the marriage. She had no way of knowing that due to her cousin's intervention, the situation would end up with Grayson left in an impossible situation, not being able to touch the money because of the lack of consumation of the marriage, and yet not able to marry someone else because of delays in Verity being confirmed dead. She wasn't punishing him with what she did (even believing he had connived with he cousin), she was simply showing the same lack of consideration for the other person as he had in not seeking out to speak to her in private before the wedding to make sure his bride was willing.
Grayson's actions on finding out that his wife was alive were also fully understandable and relatable. Of course he's angry! He does listen to her, and accepts her explanation that she didn't intend the consequences that happened, but after all, he has been in a nightmare situation for the last years, and Verity has caused it, on purpose or not. And yet, angry as he is, he's still reasonable enough to listen to her explanations and accept a way of bringing her back into society that won't hurt her unduly.
Where I thought Hunter made a false step was in using that tired plot device of "I'll do what you ask if you will allow me three kisses a day". *Groan*. I know I've liked some books with this element, but enough already. This is a plot device that should die, and now. Plus, at the moment Grayson made his proposal, I didn't feel he felt anything for Verity, other than anger at what she had put him through and exasperation that he couldn't just get things done and go straight into a normal, stress-free marriage. I didn't really see much of an attraction on his part then.
That, however, did come, and this ended up being a very good, mostly character-driven romance. Sinful in Satin is out now, and I can't wait to read it.
MY GRADE: A B+.