REVIEW: As You Are by Sarah M Eden
A horse breeder by trade, Corbin Jonquil is more at home in the stables than in the ballroom of his sprawling estate. Corbin is the quietest of the Jonquil brothers and has always faded into the background, contentedly unnoticed. When a mysterious young widow, Mrs. Clara Bentford, moves into the neighborhood, however, Corbin quickly comes to realize that being noticed has its advantages. But how to catch the eye of the lady?
According to his brothers, Corbin need only make a few simple changes to transform himself into the object of any woman’s desire—dubious advice, indeed. Following a series of misadventures, Corbin and Clara slowly lower the facades behind which they’ve been hiding, leaving Corbin shocked by the horrors that haunt the woman he’s coming to care for so ardently. When the menace of Clara’s past threatens to tear them apart and tensions mount, will the couple have the courage to fight for the promise of forever?
Dear Ms. Eden,
Here at DA, Jane temps us daily with bargain book offerings. When “As You Are” was featured, I was caught by the description of the hero being shy and in need of his brothers advice in wooing his lady. The excerpt seemed fun with Corbin playing peek-a-boo in church with Clara’s daughter and I decided to take a chance on reading it. Parts of it are, indeed, delightful and fans of beta heroes will want to take note of this one but there are things about it that didn’t wholly satisfy me.
Corbin Jonquil is a fine beta guy. He has fallen in love with unassuming Mrs. Bentford about whom the neighborhood is madly speculating. Who is she, where did she come from and who are these two children with her? Corbin doesn’t care about any of that. With her first shy smile to him, he was a goner. But how to get her to notice him? Disastrous advice from his passel of brothers does him no good but in helping her quiet ward, Edmund who also loves horses, Corbin hopes he’s found a way to get past his tongue-tied shyness around her.
Corbin’s efforts to stand out and gain his lady’s notice are charming if obviously ill advised. Since he’s from a slightly higher social class, being the son of an Earl, brother of the current title holder and has grown up in aristocratic circles, Clara doesn’t know what to make of his efforts to be around her other than he’s arrogant and dismissive. Think shades of Mr. Darcy.
When half his immense family descends on his household and start to stick their oars in, things get very confused and the situation is even more mucked up. For me as well as Clara. I realized that this is well into a series so having past happy couples as well as future hero bait on show is to be expected but this was a generous, heaping helping of it.
Hints of Clara’s dark past are sprinkled through the book but the full force of it arrives at her doorstep with an almost crash of ominous thunder. Now Corbin finally gets to be the hero and save his lady love. Well sort of. He does offer the protection of his household but it takes a village, as the saying goes, or should I say it takes a family to straighten out the villains and see them off. It’s satisfying when they turn tail and flee yet given how blatantly persistent all of them were for so long in the face of superior social connections and manly threats, the ease with which they’re ultimately vanquished seemed far too flat and anticlimactic.
True love still doesn’t run smooth as Corbin and Clara have to agonize over “Does he love me’s?” “Could she ever love me’s?” for another chapter or two. By this point, I felt that these two had earned their HEA, shown their love and ought to be left alone to get on with it. To say I was getting impatient for The End was putting it mildly.
Had these been the only issues I was left with, my grade would probably be higher if only because Corbin is a sweetie. But among all the family detritus dragged into this book were bizarre little things such as a strange woman who showed up, annoyed Corbin’s barrister brother for one scene and then was never mentioned again. And somehow Clara is the guardian of a young boy – even she admits it’s odd – but the relationship is never explained. I guess further elucidation is to be found in future books but here I’m merely left annoyed.
I did enjoy Corbin the shy, beta guy. Seeing Clara’s determination to protect her children and watching her stand up for herself was great. But the unanswered questions, past/future character dumps and Snidely Whiplash villains didn’t help this book and make me excited about reading this series any further. C-