>> Saturday, January 21, 2012
Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty... Naturally, she's betrothed to a Beast.After a ridiculous misunderstanding involving a prince, some innocent kisses and an ill-fitting dress that makes her look pregnant, Linnet Thrynne is ruined. She might still be a virgin, but no one will believe it. All seems lost until Linnet's aunt comes up with a way to actually take advantage of the misunderstanding: the Duke of Windebank's eldest son is rumoured to be impotent, so a bride with heir included would be a bonus. And that is how Linnet finds herself bundled off to a remote castle in Wales, which Piers, the Duke's heir, has set up a sort of teaching hospital.
Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.
Linnet is not just any woman.
She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks.
Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return.
Piers is a brilliant doctor, doesn't suffer fools gladly and his natural grumpiness isn't improved by the constant pain from his leg, which forces him to rely on a cane. Does this sound familiar at all? I don't tend to watch much TV, but House MD has been the exception since my brother forced me to watch the first episode (I'm still catching up and hovering somewhere round the end of season 2, so there might be some references here that I missed). Anyway, Piers isn't impressed with his father's meddling, and no matter how attractive his "fiancee" is, he won't give his father what he wants (the two share quite a painful history). But Linnet is unlike any other beautiful woman he's met before, and she gives as good as she gets, which he finds extremely appealing...
This was fun. I thought things kind of collapsed in the last third or so, but I enjoyed the first parts quite a bit. I especially had fun with the whole House thing. It's taken to just the right point... a grumpy but brilliant doctor, with a bad leg and an extremely sarcastic tongue, but that's it. It's inspiration, not an extra episode of House set in the 19th century.
I also liked how James mixed this inspiration with Beauty and the Beast. In that context, the setting that is more fantasy historical than proper historical romance was perfect. It feels "period", but James doesn't particularly concern herself with historical plausibility (I mean, having an Earl and a marriageable miss constantly disappear off for naked swimming lessons? Really?). But it was all so vivid and fun that I didn't care.
Now, the romance I had some doubts about. I enjoyed the banter, but on reflection, I realise I just didn't find the relationship particularly romantic. There was something about the way they constantly traded insults that went a teeny bit too far for me to find it romantic, I guess, even though I recognised this was just right for these clever, cerebral and unsentimental people. Well, clever and cerebral except for Piers' stubborn refusal to grab what he wants just to spite his father. That was extremely out of character, and got very tedious.
And things weren't much better in the believable romance front with the secondary romance between Piers' estranged parents. Basically, there was so much painful history there that I felt it wasn't developed enough, and would have needed either more page time or to be cut completely. I think I've had similar reactions to previous Eloisa James books as well: I feel somehow distanced from her characters and enjoy the books more for the comedy of manners than for the romance. Fortunately, I enjoy this aspect quite a lot.
What I didn't much enjoy was the ending. I didn't think it really went with the rest of the book. Suddenly it's all melodrama and Peril of Death, and it left me scratching my head.
Still, an entertaining read, if not a particularly memorable one.
MY GRADE: A B, mostly on the strength of the humour and Ms. James' writing, which is beautiful.