Heat Factor: It’s definitely not unusual for an old school trad published historical romance, but also they have sex in a cave before the 50% mark…so maybe it also is?
Character Chemistry: If you like that “I’ve been wronged and misunderstood, so I’m going to live down to everyone’s expectations” plus “I see through your mask and am the only one to call you on your b.s.” dynamic, this is that
Plot: Bluestocking spinster with no time for social niceties calls beastly and scandalous landowner to town because criminals are getting in the way of her archaeology; compromise and marriage ensues
Overall: Um, this book is awesomesauce.
I have almost certainly read 100 other books that include these things:
- Strong-willed spinster heroine who doesn’t care about social strictures that make no logical sense
- Beautiful, perfect younger sister on whom all the family’s hopes and dreams for the future are pinned (because of course she’ll marry well)
- Scarred aristocrat with a dark, scandalous reputation and a terrible relationship with his parents
- “I’ve been forced to spend the night with you, so now you’re compromised, and we must marry.”
- Urbane, handsome, and charming former best friend of the hero insinuates himself into the life of the heroine, and the hero won’t explain why he doesn’t like it.
I’m saying, on the surface, this looks like a lot of other historical romance, especially the old school stuff. But, friends, it is SO GREAT. Harriet Pomeroy shares a lot of characteristics with Jessica Trent, and the story probably shines entirely because of her. I say probably because there’s a lot going on, and it’s a fun read, so I could be wrong…but I’m going to stand by the argument that she is what makes the book level up.
In some ways, I wondered what on earth Harriet was thinking. If she’s so invested in her sister making a good match, and she understands how reputation works, why would she be so entirely careless of her own? She simply doesn’t have the patience to spend her energy on things she feels are of no consequence, and not spending time with the only man who cares about helping her root out the criminal elements using her caves because society says she shouldn’t is definitely on the top of her “eff that noise” list.
Then, too, she sees St. Justin in ways that no one else does. In the village where Harriet lives, he was accused of causing the death of the prior rector’s daughter after ending their engagement when she was with child, and there are even murmurings that he offed his own brother! Quick takes this in a slightly generically unusual direction when she has Harriet ask St. Justin directly if the rumors are true. Harriet is nothing if not direct, though. As things progress, we the reader might see that St. Justin is being accused of crimes he did not commit (I mean, he is the hero, after all), but does Harriet know? Does she decide to trust him out of expediency, or is there something else in play? The way this storyline reads is EXTREMELY SATISFYING.
Readers who like a first sex experience that’s not that great will like this one, too. It isn’t until later in their marriage that Harriet can understand what all the fuss is about.
There’s an external conflict in this book, which both pushes the characters together and keeps the momentum going as the suspenseful plot twists and turns to its conclusion. The primary reason that they can’t be together right now is because their secrets have not all been revealed, and the path they tread to come together is shrouded in shadows that keep the reader guessing. The 3rd person narration is not close, so we are not quite sure where our protagonists’ minds are going as they act to solve crimes and mysteries together but for their own reasons.
When it all pulls together, it is just perfection.
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