...'scandalous, shameful, scounderlous bad man!'
so Felicity Hemmings Worthington at one stage describes Gareth Alexander, Marquess of Heathgate.
I must admit initially I had reservations about the plot. I really liked the main characters but, Yikes! the whole premise left me aghast and agape.
Really I was halfway convinced that Burrowes had run amok and this novel was nothing more than a bodice ripper --albeit 'of the first water.'
My perceptions were turned on their head. Gareth (the novel) emerged as an enthralling, deviously plotted Regency romance embedded in the idea of women and inheritance laws, reverting of land and titles to the crown where no male heir is found, ownership, brothels and prostitutes, and the legalities of this profession in these times. In an interesting appendage Burrowes discusses these factors.
In this Lonely Lords episode a penniless spinster, made penniless by the law of Escheat, (where the title and lands, in this case the title of Viscount belonging to her father, reverts to the crown if no male inheritor can be found), inherits a gaming house/brothel. Conditions of the inheritance are Machiavellian to say the least, including eventual loss of virtue. To save her younger sister from a life of drudgery and pernicury the spinster attempts to fulfill the inheritance.
Added to this the sexual encounters although tender yet passionate are again constructs of the premise. A lot of disbelief initially needs to be suspended.
But then this is perhaps a Beauty and the Beast story in a different guise:
*Dowdy looking Beauty (very proper spinster) in predicament
*Approaches Beast (disenchanted marquess) for distasteful help
*Beast agrees reluctantly
*Beast acts beastly to try to scare Beauty off
*Beast finds himself falling in love
*Beauty finds that beast is all she could wish for
*Beast acts in Beauty's best interests
*Beast rescues Beauty from threats
*Beauty is victim no more
*Alls well that ends well--with surprises--but ah! The agony off getting there!
... and a villain of course lurks in the proverbial shrubbery
There are moments that I really enjoyed in this misplaced unintended relationship.
More than once I was struck by Felicity's introspective musings about their relationship. 'Did a gallant knight ever bring his lady anything more precious than hope?'
Frisson aplenty, steamy romance and more. Good reading!
A NetGalley ARC