See how many chances I am giving to historical novels!
First. The cover. Is just plain weird. I mean its obvious they started with a photo of a good-looking couple. Then they seem to have photoshopped paint smudges over the photo. The effect of which is to make it look like there is strange hair growths all over the models. Over his face. So he looks scruffy. Over her clothes so they look scratchy and itchy. Very strange.
Actually. This novel is vile. Not that I dislike the main couple particularly. It is the theme that is vile. The hero is a grown man, who has fought in wars; he has friends, a good living...and he is totally obsessed with his relationship with his estranged daddy. That's twisted...and a bit babyish. The theme is class difference.
Boo hoo. The hero is the illegitimate son of a Lord...and he hates his daddy for rejecting him and taking his dead artist mommy's paintings when he was fighting in the Peninsular Wars. The heroine is of course a toff. I haven't finished the book yet but I know there will be a happy ending for the hero and heroine. But the question is. Would Sullivan have fallen in love with the heroine if she had been a servant instead of a Lady? The answer is most probably no. But it gets worse. The hero is a sortof part time criminal. (With the noblest of causes of course.) And he gets caught in the act by the heroine. In the book the heroine admits to herself pretty quickly that if the hero hadn't been so very very handsome she'd have turned him in to the authorites for hanging. How gross is that? (Class and eugenics in the same story. Ugh!)
The language in the book freqently takes the reader back to modern times. And is often highly culturally offensive. (I'm sure the Georgette Heyer stories I used to read never had that problem.) There is endless conversation about the hero's illegitimacy...often by the heroine and her friends. Phrases like 'by-blow' are used. Jeez. The guy has been in a war. But everyone is obsessed by his parentage. The question is. Why does he bother with those kind of people?
Many characters use a kind of mockney rhyming slang that didn't really come around til Victorian times. I'm sure the currency in Regency times was 'guineas' not 'quids'..which is an entirely modern word. Why would a Regency Lady ever set foot in the kitchen? I got totally confused when the heroine invites one of her beaus to eat some 'cooked biscuits.' Surely she couldn't be talking about the kind of hot biscuits cooked in pioneering times? They didn't ever ever exist in Regency England. I hate nick-names. Throughout much of the novel the heroine, Isabella, is referred to as 'Tibby' by her friends. Yuk.
The hero, Sullivan, is supposed to be a horse-breeder. On just 3 acres of land! I don't think so. I really didn't like how he loses colour when he's around his daddy's legitimate heirs. Was he some kind of pussy or what?
The book is about 350 pages long. The reader has to plod through the first 180 pages which basically detail the courtship between the main couple. Only a couple of kisses present. With lots of good conversations, inner and outer. After page 180 the story really comes to life. The frivolity disappears and some really quite serious issues are written about. Actually the novel almost gets quite sad with a hint of potential tragedy. At one point the hero acknowledges that if he cannot be with Isabel then he will remain unwed for the whole of his life. Boy. You don't read that very often.
The penultimate conclusion between the hero and his natural father was just a little too pat. Although in reality, I believe. The illegitimate son of a Lord of the Realm was often given his own title and income. It was only the main title and entailed lands that were inherited by legitimate heirs. So maybe the reconciliation scene wasn't too far-fetched after all.
I enjoyed how the heroine's family essentially support her efforts to help the hero. Even though she never gets round to actually telling them that she and her guy have got down to it a couple of times. The hero is quite a passive guy who relys a lot on his friends to help him out of a very tricky situation. Like someone who's had too many knocks in life. Maybe that's why he let himself get beaten up...too proud to run. The message comes across that yes, we like to think we determine our outcomes, but sometimes it is others around us who decide our futures. The heroine, Isabel is very easy to like. She knows what she wants and goes after it but doesn't at any point turn into even the ghost of a doormat. Like in all the best romances, falling in love opens the hero's eyes to the futility of his previous hatreds. (A similar theme formed the background to one of my favorite historicals; Dangerous by JAK.) I liked that. (Although without those hatreds, Sullivan would never have met Isabel. Would he?) I'm amazed Isabel's family didn't try to pay off the hero.
Please god, the author, at some later date, doesn't decide to make Oliver Waring, Lord Tilden, the hero of a novel in the series. In the nicest possible way, he was a truely disgusting character. After all. He spat at Sullivan when they were children. And then. Then. He tries to get the adult Sullivan hanged...because Isabel likes him. Oliver showed a true 'master-slave' mentality. There is no possible redemption for that piece of slime.
My final impression was; 'Thank goodness Sullivan was handsome and good in bed. Otherwise he'd have been dead...about 3 times over.' The book is ok though. Very readable.