>> Tuesday, February 15, 2011
TITLE: What The Gentleman Wants
AUTHOR: Caroline Linden
SETTING: Early 19th century England
SERIES: I don't think so.
REASON FOR READING: I've read another book by Linden that I really liked, the very fresh and different What a Woman Needs.
Marcus Reese, Duke of Essex, has spent most of his life pulling his twin brother out of trouble. An occasional thank you would suffice; instead, his resentful sibling forges his name to a marriage license and presents him with an unwanted wife. She's a vicar's window with a mind of her own who may be the first person in Marcus's well-ordered life to make him feel...completely out of control.Hannah Preston is in a bit of a desperate situation. A vicar's widow, she's about to lose her home, as a new vicar's about to arrive to take over the living. Hannah really doesn't want to go back to live with her horrid father, so when she nurses a wild young man who's had an accident right in front of her door and he proposes a marriage of convenience as a thank you, she accepts.
Hannah can't help but curse her own idiocy. Dire straits have led her to the altar with a gentleman she hardly knows. Played for a fool, she's embarrassed, furious, and worse, married to an equally outraged stranger - an exasperating man who unleashes all manner of emotions in Hannah, not to mention unwanted desire. Reluctantly, she agrees to play the wife until he can sort out the mess.
But the nearness of the undeniably attractive Duke and the passion in his black eyes unsettles her well-guarded heart - making her want to do so much more than "act" the role of blissful bride...
It turns out, however, that the young man gets cold feet right before the wedding, and his bright idea is to forge his twin brother's signature on the register. Which is how Hannah ends up, as far as the world is concerned, as the wife of the cold and forbidding Marcus, Duke of Essex, who is not amused, and yet is determined to keep the charade going, to keep his family from being disappointed by his idiot of a brother.
The preposterous setting aside, this atarted well. It seemed like a kind of story I really like: Marcus is the proud, serious duke, who's shouldered all the responsibility all his life and really needs a bit of warmth, and Hannah seemed like just the person to provide it. She's warm and sensible and all around nice. Unfortunately, in the end, it just didn't work. The main problem was that the characters often behaved in what seemed to be unbelievable ways and I just didn't buy it.
First, the whole premise this is based on, that David would at the same time be a good and intelligent man, if a bit irresponsible and used to having his brother get him out of scrapes, and also play the trick he did on his brother and on this woman he'd just met and liked very much. No. Just no. If you want him to play the trick, then he must be a completely idiotic nitwit. If he's supposed to be the person he is at the end of the book, he wouldn't have played the trick.
Then there's also Marcus' pointless determination throughout most of the book that he'll never marry and have children, something so strongly felt that he discards the idea without a moment's thought once he starts feeling for Hannah. It's not that it's a big deal, it was just an indication of how much the author was moving the characters in directions that would move the plot the way she wanted it to go without considering whether this fit the character she'd been creating.
Why would Marcus, a duke, no less, decide he'd never marry, out of nothing? Silly. Would this guy really enter into a crazy charade with a fake wife just to keep from disabusing his stepmother and sister's illusions of his brother? I never completely bought it. And the way the scene played when Hannah first met the stepmother and sister made me want to throw the book down: they won't listen to the truth, Hanna moans. Well, no, not if you say it in purposely unclear ways! With a little effort they would have had no choice but to accept it, and it's only because the author needs this to happen that Hannah doesn't get her message across.
There's also a counterfeiting plot that I had zero interest in, and the last 10th of the book is taken up by running around to find the culprits and free successive people held captive by the villains. I didn't care and skimmed most of it, feeling quite annoyed.
It's not a horrible book, though, even though I've just griped and griped. For the most part, I read it ok, just stopping in annoyance a few times. It's just not as good as I remember the first one to be. Wonder if I would have liked that one as much if I read it today?
MY GRADE: A C+.