Feb 19 2007
Dear Ms. Thornton,
After attempting the first book in this trilogy, “The Defiant Mistress,” I was pretty sure I wouldn’t go any further with the series. Then I read a good review for this book. That coupled with Laura’s positive post about it made me decide to give this one a chance. After all, I could always take it back to Waldenbooks. I love Waldenbooks’ return policy. I’m glad to say though that I won’t be using it for this book.
Lady Desire Godwin has lived a reclusive life since her father died five years ago. Before that, she helped to nurse her mother during her mother’s terminal illness. So it comes to pass that she’s now thirty years old and still unwed, despite the fact that she’s a wealthy heiress. But Desire wants a husband and children and knows that she needs a man to protect her. Just last year, a nobleman attempted to abduct an heiress and the marriage laws are such that if he had succeeded, nothing her family could have done would have annulled the forced marriage. When a stranger climbs up onto the roof of her London home and then is followed by two ruffians, Desire is momentarily frozen in horror, fearing her time has come. But the handsome stranger surprises her by attempting to stop the others and her sense of justice makes Desire insist that her hastily assembled household see that he is incarcerated in Newgate prison rather than being strung up by his neck on the spot.
Colonel Jakob Balston is pissed to be in prison but figures that a quick note to his cousin the Duke of Kilverdale will spring him. But Kilverdale must be off on one of his jaunts because three days later, Jakob is still waiting. Reluctantly he tries to notify his paternal grandfather, the Earl of Swiftbourne but gets no response from him either. Now Jakob is getting nervous as the fire which started a few days ago in a London bakery seems to be spreading across the city. When the gaolers finally decide to move the prisoners to the Clink prison, Jakob seizes his chance to escape during the confusion. Admiration for Desire’s coolheaded response to the abduction he was attempting to thwart, coupled with a sense of the debt he owes her for saving his life, compels Jakob check to be sure that she and her household have evacuated the burning city. When he arrives on her rooftop garden to find that while her household has left Desire is still there, Jakob is forced to remove her. But what he calls a rescue, Desire names an abduction. And Jakob finds himself growing more attracted to Desire even as he battles to discover who is behind the attempts force her into marriage. Meanwhile Desire struggles to believe that a man could want her for herself instead of merely for her immense fortune.
I like the slow way that Desire grows in confidence as the story progresses. No one event suddenly propels her into being a take-charge spitfire. Instead, she takes small but believable steps towards independence. She also comes across as a woman of her time and I found it natural that she would trust the men she had grown up believing were working in her best interest. She also has no false belief that she can make it on her own nor does she want to avoid marriage altogether. For a woman of her status in society, this would have been unthinkable.
Jakob is an alpha man of the seventeenth century but this doesn’t mean he comes across as a thug. Men of that era, especially first born sons, were raised to be in charge and to look after the women in their care. Jakob also mixes the flirtatious standard of the men of the Restoration Era with the basic decency of a good guy. He can also be a man of action, ready with his sword and his soldier’s instincts to defend innocents and his lady.
I thought you did a great job recreating the feel of 1666 England from the class divisions to the clothes to the horrible fire which raged through London. The wedding night customs, which I had read in other books as well, make me glad that modern weddings no longer include a public bedding of the bridal couple. And lest anyone wonder about historical accuracy of abducting heiresses in 17th century England, Antonia Frasier mentions it as well in her book “The Weaker Vessel.”
I was disappointed with the number of misunderstandings between Desire and Jakob. Most of them do actually makes sense in the context of the story but still there were a few too many of them for my taste. Still, I enjoyed the book and am glad that I gave it a try and that authors are being allowed to use more unusual settings for their stories. B- for “The Abducted Heiress.”