Dear. Ms. Lee,
Major excitement at a lower class heroine, plus added excitement that you show a more realistic view of her social acceptance minus a hero who seems to earn a living feeling sorry for himself equals mixed feelings for this book.
Scheherazade Martin was born into a theater family, raised in the theater and has successfully managed it for years. Though she’s not an actress, society views her as little better than one and she has to maintain a quick wit, soothing personality and willingness to kiss up a bit to the wealthy patrons in order to keep things running smoothly in the green room after the performances. The one thing she wants in life is the respectability that comes with a wedding ring and she knows she won’t get it from Brandon, Lord Blackstone.
Surprisingly she does get a proposal of marriage from Blackstone’s cousin, Kit. But though Kit is a younger son, his family and the ton view their relationship as a misalliance and use every trick at their disposal, including coercing Brandon into trying to seduce Scher, to try and break up Scher and Kit. Brandon views his assignment with disgust which grows as he comes to know the strong woman Scher is. But he’s hiding a dark secret in his past which makes his life a pit of despair and seemingly precludes offering Scher anything but the carte blanche she’s determined to avoid.
First off, I love the heroine’s name, even if I did Google it to see if it would have been known in Europe at this time. But beyond merely being colorful, did you have a reason to pick it? I like the fact that she’s in the theater world even if she’s not actually an actress. She can still be socially tarred with the same brush and is during later scenes. Thank you for this. I get miffed when a historical book is set up in such a way that there are social barriers between a hero and heroine which in the end get knocked down and end up meaning nothing. Balogh seems to do this a lot.
Brandon does come off like an ass during the first chapter or so until we finally get his POV and realize what he’s doing by pressing his attentions on Scher. But even then, he is still somewhat ass-ish for doing what his brother wants. Why would Brandon agree to this if he doesn’t get along with his family?
Brava for Scher to have goals and stick to them – for most of the book anyway. Her desire for respectability is a potent one with real life tragedies to back it up. When she stays the course and tells Brandon, and several others, ‘no’ she isn’t just being coy or silly. Scher also uses her head when an encounter with Brandon threatens to get out of control. She challenges him to see her as a person and not use force. But she can fight too. I like that Scher is wise to what the family tries during the introductory dinner meeting but then shouldn’t she expect the snubs she gets during the Hyde Park drive?
Bonus points to Brandon for trying to be honest and prepare Scher for that drive through Snubville and for the fact that she would never be accepted into this society. He tells her that the drive that day would only show her what she and Kit would endure from then on. And his warnings ring more truthfully since he’s been in a similar situation in India.
Brandon and Scher share more than just passion. They’ve both been betrayed and hurt and find solace in each other. But what helps me believe that Brandon has truly found his love is his statement to her that he can’t think of a better place in life that doesn’t have her in it and Scher’s willingness to give up her dream of a respectable marriage in order to be with Brandon. Plus Brandon listens to Scher and respects what she says. Which I guess will make him act less like Kit about Scher continuing to be the one controlling the theater after their marriage.
Does Brandon get his viewpoint of the English and especially the upper class English as stuck up snobs who march in lockstep, keeping the foreigners and lower classes down only after arriving in India? He’s so vitriolic about this, which I can understand based on what happened to him but what caused him to be any different from the other English working for the East India Company? Was there something in his past that I missed or is he, like Wilberforce, born out of step with his countrymen?
Brandon agreed to come back to England with title and money so he could go to House of Lords and “Do Something.” Champion the cause of the poor, the slaves, the immigrants, the Colonies, whatever but he told Scher that this was why he gave in and took the blood money and his freedom. So, after two years, why has he done nothing but wallow in his guilt and enjoyed feeling sorry for himself? When Scher told him to either piss or get off the pot, I said, “Amen, sister!” I also wondered about how easy it would truly be for Brandon to extricate himself from what he felt was keeping him from offering for Scher.
Readers who like a dark, angsty hero might care for Brandon more than I did. Me, I just wanted to grab him by the scruff and shake him. Scher, who does things instead of sitting around pouring ashes on her head, is more my kind of woman. But I will give you points for a bang up epilogue and major hook to read what I guess will be the next book in the series. C+