REVIEW: Make Me Yours by Betina Krahn
Dear Ms. Krahn:
I don’t think I’ve read a Blaze Historical before (and I’m not even sure what a Blaze Historical is). I’ll admit that I passed over this book initially when I was perusing the eHarlequin ebook website because the blurb which included a reference to Prince of Wales and I am always nervous about the incorporation of Very Famous People in books. But! I am so glad that I did get this as an ARC because I actually thought the book was great and I wouldn’t have read it had it not been sent to me.
Mariah Eller is a widow whose sole inheritance from her deceased husband is the Eller-Stapleton Inn. One evening she is called to the Inn because several wealthy gentlemen were about to smash out the windows, molest her serving girl, and generally destroy the inn. Worse, because the so called gentlemen have signed her register under fake names (Jack Sprat, Jack B Nimble, Union Jack, Jack A. Dandy, Jack Ketch, Jack O. Lantern), she can’t even hold them responsible if they do wreak havoc. Her only choice is to lull them into a drunken stupor. Upon arriving in the inn’s public room armed with her wits, a fiddler, and a lot of liquor, Mariah recognizes that one of her “guests” is Bertie, Prince of Wales. Mariah does her job well enough, flirting with six men and ostensibly drinking them all under the table that she catches the interest of Bertie.
The Prince of Wales dispatches Jack B. Nimble a.k.a Jack St. Lawrence and Jack O. Lantern, Baron Marchant, to procure the services of Mariah as Bertie’s new mistress. Bertie only engages in liasons with married women so Mariah is presented with the dubious honor of becoming a whore for the prince as well as being given over to some faceless man in marriage. Mariah has few options. As Marchant tells her, “One word from the prince and your thousand-pound loan can be paid and stricken from both ledger and memory. A different word, however, could bring the note due this very day. You are surely clever enough to see the advantage of allying yourself to such power.”
Mariah is clever enough to see she has no choice. Jack has provided her with a list of 4 gentlemen. Mariah insists on meeting all of them and Jack will be her escort. Mariah does not set out to seduce Jack, but the sexual attraction between the two is strong and Jack, well, “She was striking, sensual, self-possessed and had already proven she had as much command over his body as he did.”
But even if Jack where to marry Mariah, there is the problem that Bertie expects Mariah to be delivered to him and he would not be happy with Jack sampling the wares. The St. Lawrence family has always been a friend to the crown and in exchange for services rendered, Jack’s brothers have been able to gain advantageous marriages. Jack is expected to do the same.
There are some drawbacks to the story. Jack is portrayed as a man of science and learning but I felt that this part of his character was underdeveloped. The ending crumbled a bit for me because I didn’t feel like I had enough sense for the type of man Bertie was that would allow for the resolution that occurred. I needed more backstory or worldbuilding as it pertained to Bertie.
Overall, though, Make Me Yours read like a breath of fresh air. I loved Mariah and her embrace of her sexuality. Her husband was a worldly man and awoke in Mariah a passion that she hadn’t known existed. When he died, she missed that physical attention. While Jack is not the aggressor in this story, there is no denying that he has power from simply being a man and this power is well met by Mariah’s own self possession. One of my particularly favorite scenes is when Mariah is purportedly making a list of things that Bertie might like in terms of clothes, scents, and other female accoutrements. It’s a seduction scene of dialogue:
“What do you think–is her more visual or tactile?” When he scowled, she clarified, “Is he a looker or a toucher?” Holding her pencil poised, she appeared thoughtful. “He seemed to like having his hands in my hair.”
“It’s not for me to say,” he bit out, filled with images and indignation.
“I only ask because you are my sole source of information, and it has a direct impact on what sort of garments I buy. Some men like to see a woman’s bounty grandly and brazenly displayed. Others prefer to have to peel away layers of frilly armor to reveal a woman’s intimate secrets.”
A woman’s bounty…frilly armor… intimate secrets…Every word was an incantation conjuring salacious images in his head.
“Very well.” She broke the silence and made a note on her pad. “You refuse to discuss the prince’s preferences, so I shall just have to be guided by your own.”
“Mine?” His grip on his walking stick and his jaw both loosened.
“As a representative. Most certainly. You hunt together, attend the same functions and admire the same fashionable ladies, do you not? Then what appeals to you must, by all logic, appeal to him.”
“So, Jack St. Lawrence–” her voice lowered and lapped around his tensed body in warm, suggestive waves “–in intimate situations, do you prefer to see a woman arrayed in permissive silk lingerie or cinched into stern-boned corsets and twenty-button gloves?”
His teeth ground together. He squeezed his eyes tighter and his whole body tensed. Provocative flashes of nipples veiled by translucent silk and breasts bulging above black satin boning flared in his mind. Punishment indeed. The silk in his vision slid…the corset loosened…blue eyes burned and wine-sweetened lips beckoned…tempting and accusing him. Hypocrite.
I can see this appealing to many historical romance readers and I hope that they don’t miss it because it’s packaged as a category. B