Laura Lee Guhrke is one of my favorite authors of historical romance. Why then did I give this book only three stars? It didn't give me any of those exciting, breathless moments I enjoy so much in a romance novel.
Prudence Bosworth is a 28 year old "girl bachelor" who has been on her own in London since the age of 17. Her aunt and uncle took her in after her mother died but Prudence and her aunt and cousin always had problems. She saw herself as a burden for the financially strapped family and after one too many disagreements took herself off to London to make her way in the world. She works as a seamstress at Madam Marceau's and has managed to work herself into the position of head seamstress after eleven years of hard work. Prudence knows that she is not considered to be a beauty and that the only way for her to have a 29" waist is for her to be laced into her corset so tightly she can just barely breath. She is the type person who always sees the best in people and makes the best of any situation she is in. I liked Prudence. She reminded me of a perfectly normal woman and I actually could not find any fault with her for believing what she was told. Rhys de Winter, the Duke of St.Cyres comes to her rescue at a time when she needs a little outside help. But Prudence is a very practical woman, she knows there will never be another meeting between the Duke and the seamstress.
The Duke of St. Cyres (pronounced sincere - thanks, Ms Guhrke!)is a rogue from his head to his toes. Very early on we get the full force of his character when he rescues a serving girl from the unwanted attentions of another member of the peerage (with Prudence looking on) and then later winds up with the serving girl in his bed. And believe me, he was NOT thinking about Prudence! As you will know from reading the description of this book, St. Cyres (at 33) has just become Duke after the death of his uncle. He is totally awash in debt. He has spent the last ten years living in Italy and spending every penny he had. Suddenly all the responsibility for the title and lands with all that implies falls into the lap of one who doesn't want it but must find a way to save it. Let's all hear it for the idea of 'rake marries an heiress for her money'!
Several things were different about this book. It is an historical novel but is set in 1894 so there are some modern conveniences most of us are not used to finding when we read novels set in the Regency Period (which is much more prevelant in my experience). We therefore have things such as electric lighting at the Opera House and railroad travel. These things are mentioned in a very nonchalant way and don't really play much of a part in the story, with the exception of St.Cyres buying Prudence a train of her own (with HER expectation of money, of course). Basically, this reads just like a Regency.
Something I really spent some time wondering about is why Ms Guhrke made the inheritance for Prudence so incredibly HUGE. It was so big that it was unbelievable. Just a niggle in my consciousness, but it did niggle. Also, why did Prudence do what she did at the end of the book? I know Rhys had lied to her over and over but I found that to be out of character for her and I didn't like it. I had actually hoped the author would be able to withstand any pressure put on her and leave the ending the way she led us to believe it would end. I, for one, would have been much happier (and I think Rhys would have too, deep down!). Another bothersome factor were the excerpts from the daily London papers which began each chapter. They actually told what WAS GOING to happen in the chapter. Why? I didn't like that at all. Another irritant was that Henry Bosworth changed his name to Henry Abernathy when he went to America. Why did people in London begin to call Prudence by the name of Abernathy but Rhys called her Prudence Bosworth? Awkward and not explained as far as I can find. Also, why was there only one suitor for an heiress with such a large inheritance? You will not often hear me say that a book needed to be longer but this one needed some fierce competition. Cousin Robert might as well have not even been mentioned and it was obvious that Rhys was a sweetie. Where was the competition, if not for Prudence at least for the money? Just some information for those of you who want to be warned, there are two episodes of a sexual nature in the book, not counting the serving girl because it is not explicit. Quite honestly, they do happen before Prudence and Rhys marry but they are very well done and unless you just don't want to read about that at all, they probably won't offend your sensibilities.
My overall opinion: I gave this book three stars because a)I didn't find it very exciting, b)the family secret St.Cyres was hiding was ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY OBVIOUS, c)I didn't like what Prudence did in the ending, d)I doubt very seriously that I will ever want to read this book again, and e) too many niggly bits make for a three star rating. It isn't a bad book, it just isn't as good as every other book I've ever read by this author. Way too many opportunities missed for making this a super, good book!