Heat Factor: They keep holding themselves back…until they don’t.
Character Chemistry: Sebastian is too darn noble for his own good, which means there’s a lot of pining.
Plot: Paulina’s Evil Older Brother puts her in a compromising position with Sebastian, and then catches them there, and then throws Sebastian in jail until he agrees to marry Paulina…but what’s his long game???
Overall: A perfectly delicious category romance.
This book has everything I want in a good category romance: a ridiculous set up, lots of emotional turmoil, a severe lack of communication, an evocative setting, and more drama than you can shake a stick at. The main characters were largely delightful and the intrigue wasn’t predictable.
It’s 1905 in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic. Sebastian owns a sugar mill and is working night and day to ensure that it succeeds—the livelihood of so many people depends on him! When in town, he runs into Paulina, the daughter of a wealthy family. She seems attractive and delicate and her brother is an absolute bully, so he accepts her invitation to attend her birthday party. There’s some light flirting. At the end of the night, Paulina’s brother throws her out of the house, so she makes her way to Sebastian, as he is their closest neighbor. Plus he has white knight syndrome, so of course he’d help a woman in need. And…COMPROMISED!
Things take a juicy twist when Paulina’s brother throws Sebastian in jail until he agrees (it seems like this guy has dirt on everyone in town, so they all do his bidding). Of course Sebastian is furious—and assumed Paulina was in on it. Hence the emotional turmoil. Sebastian is angry at Paulina for tricking him and lying to him; he’s very attracted to her but determined to keep his hands to himself so they can get the marriage annulled; he’s worried about all the people he supports. As for Paulina, she’s upset and betrayed that her brother would do her dirty like that; she’s indignant that Sebastian won’t believe her when she says none of this was her idea; she’s irritated and sad that Sebastian keeps pushing her away when she desperately wants to make the marriage work.
I’ve talked a bit about Sebastian and his savior complex. So let’s talk Paulina for a moment. When we first meet her she’s wearing miles and miles of ruffles, and Sebastian takes her for a pampered rich girl. But the ruffles are a façade—the family is actually broke—and she’s actually tough and hard-working. She’s intensely lonely and isolated and really wants to live her dreams. The way the two of them play off each other is lovely. Of course they are terrible at communicating (ok, maybe Sebastian is terrible at listening), but San Andres doesn’t keep them on the same fight the whole book, but allows it to morph as their relationship changes—while still keeping the characters true to their core identities. I never felt the need to throw my Kindle because they were being frustrating idiots, is what I’m saying.
Overall, this was a lovely, entertaining read. When a Harlequin historical hits its mark, it hits the spot.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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Arranged Marriages (mostly without the threat of prison)