Dear Ms. Hunter:
So, for many years, I have been bemoaning the state of historicals. Particularly bemoaning the fact that a brilliant author such as yourself seemed to slide from vibrant and emotional books to recycled plots and lackluster characters. I had not bought your most recent two books and thought this one was a reprint. The title sounded so familiar. Slowly, word began to seep through the internet from website to blog to mailing list saying that this Hunter was a must read. Jayne and I had to read something for our December dueling reviews and we thought we would give this one a try. As Jayne would say “Huzzah!” I am so glad we did.
Rather than belaboring the excellent plot summary Jayne did, let me just dive right into the details of why this book resonated so well with me. First, there is the heroine, Alexia, who acts with more than petulant emotions. Not once did I envision her stamping her pretty, but poorly shod foot. She was a poor relation and she understood this. She also understood that this was life and whining and crying about it or trying to do without for the sake of her pride wasn’t going to get her anywhere. That is not to say that Alexia was perfect. She wanted to remain a gentlewoman even though she had skill to live as a tradesperson, making hats. She was a bit selfish because she knew accepting Hayden’s proposal to first work for him and then be his wife would greatly jeopardize her friendship with her cousin, Roselyn.
Hayden was a strong character who exuded intelligence. He recognized his desire for Alexia immediately. He recognized that she had power over him in this, even when she did not know it. He was not cowed by his older brother or his relations. Watching him succumb to Alexia was a delight. His actions were an exact fit for the character created. I didn’t even notice him being high handed. What I saw was that Hayden would not allow Alexia to hide behind social lies. That when she hungered for him, he knew it.
” . . .I did not like your kiss and you must not do this again.”
He opened the door. “You liked it. Do you think a man can not tell?”
Alexia, too, made Hayden realize that life was not easily solved by losing himself in his math theorems. That to have a relationship, he must be invested physically, emotionally and intellectually. The other characters too, were not just set pieces, but were integral parts of the scenes, advancing not only the plot but the character development. The secondary characters were engaging but not overpowering. The eldest brother, Christian, was particularly engaging and stole a few of the scenes in which he appeared.
The drawbacks would be that Hayden tended to brood too much and took too much responsibility for problems that weren’t his and that Alexia tended to act the martyr at times. I thought the bank crisis was a bit too easily resolved. If Hayden didn’t have pots of money, it would have been a much more meaningful conflict. But these are small, small quibbles. I didn’t even mind that the bad guys got shipped to America. I mean, it was either us or the Australians, right? This one is a keeper for me. A-