REVIEW: What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden
Dear Ms. Linden:
Marcus Reese, Duke of Exeter, is a pragmatic man. When confronted with the angry husband of his brother’s latest paramour, Reese sets off to find his brother, save his life and his sister’s season from Scandal. It matters not that he has to interrupt a bout of tupping between brother and paramour. He’s also not a fast man. Said paramour murmurs to him that it was a little exciting to her to have him watch them. Exeter is quick to set her down:
“You are sadly mistaken if you think the sight of you riding my brother like a common strumpet was remotely exciting to me,” he said. “I suggest you purge the thought from your head.”
Here was my first clue that this book would not be like all the other historicals I have read. It would not feature a dissolute rake who needs to be redeemed by love. I started getting excited and I was barely a few pages in. Exeter sends David out of town to wait out the scandal that is bound to develop.
David heads off to Middleborough but is injured in an accident. Hannah Preston, the vicar’s widow, takes him into her home and nurses him back to health. David grows to like Hannah and offers her a marriage of convenience. He needs some respectability and Hannah needs the money because with her husband gone, she has little funds to care for herself and her daughter. If she doesn’t accept David’s offer, Hannah will have to go and live with her father who had since remarried and has no need for Hannah. It seems that marriage is her best recourse. But David isn’t really quite ready to be shackled and unbeknowst to Hannah he signs his brother’s name on the marriage license.
Exeter and Hannah’s attempt to extricate themselves from the sham marriage is complicated by Celia, Exeter’ sister, and Rosalind, his mother. Both are incurable romantics and delighted that Exeter has finally married. Even if the marriage doesn’t seem all that appropriate, Celia and Rosalind are determined that this will work. Their clever machinations are misread completely by Exeter which was kind of a treat. He thinks he knows it all, but really doesn’t.
Exeter is a bit removed from his family even though he loves them. He wants everyone including his new and temporary wife to call him Exeter. He doesn’t know the names of his servants. Why should he? He’s Exeter. The vicar’s daughter doesn’t really know anything about the peerage. She never intended to live amongst them. But she begins to the like the trappings of wealth and would miss the silk sheets and garments once the farce of the marriage is over. It’s great to see a haughty man fall and fall he does for the warmth and good heart of Hannah.
The romance is a bit complicated by the fact that Exeter is investigating a counterfeit situation. He’s been drug into it because some of the fake bills have been passed by his brother, either knowingly or unknowingly. This did provide a bit of a suspense to the book to move the story along (although I enjoyed the romance more than the suspense part). However, the action sequence toward the end seemed tacked on and not in keeping with the character development. If the suspense had been better integrated into the story, I would have given it an A. As it is, I enjoyed this story the first time and then the second when I wrote up this letter. B