Marcus Reese, Duke of Essex, has spent most of his life pulling his twin brother out of trouble. An occasional thank you would suffice; instead, his resentful sibling forges his name to a marriage license and presents him with an unwanted wife. She’s a vicar’s widow with a mind of her own who may be the first person in Marcus’s well-ordered life to make him feel. . .completely out of control.
Hannah can’t help but curse her own idiocy. Dire straits have led her to the altar with a gentleman she hardly knows. Played for a fool, she’s embarrassed, furious, and worse, married to an equally outraged stranger–an exasperating man who unleashes all manner of emotions in Hannah, not to mention unwanted desire. Reluctantly, she agrees to play the wife until he can sort out the mess. But the nearness of the undeniably attractive Duke and the passion in his black eyes unsettles her well-guarded heart–making her want to do so much more than “act” the role of blissful bride. . .
I’ve been on a big Victorian England kick lately. Historical romance (aka bodice rippers) and steam punk novels have been my friend. So when Nalini Singh recently posted that she’d read a great historical book with a stuffy hero I took notice. My first thought? If it’s good enough for Nalini Singh, it’s good enough for me.
This was not a mistake guys, this was how romance should go. There was the obligatory “we hate each other” and “this is all some kind of mistake” followed by the “maybe they’re not so bad” to finally “how do I tell them I might not hate them and ok so maybe it’s love but I won’t admit that even to myself.” I mean, that’s pretty standard, but in “What A Gentleman Wants” it doesn’t feel forced. It’s a natural progression from disdain to honest affection.
Oh, and there’s a mystery! Ok, so it’s not the best mystery, but it’s a decent one and added a little something extra.
I liked Marcus. He has an uptight shell that slowly cracks to reveal a soft a nuggety center. Actually, a caramel center, I like caramel more. (On the flip side is his twin, who appears to be a drunken mess, but later reveals his own inner goodness. ) Paired with Marcus is Hannah, the proper vicar’s widow with a backbone of steal. While I did like Hannah and her desire to remain a mother and simple, I didn’t love how quickly she seemed to give over to letting her kid be raised by someone else. Though that might just be due to my guilt over wishing *I* had a governess. (seriously, how do people raise kids as a single parent? you guys deserve medals. Heaps of them)
Rounding out the Reece clan is a very much not wicked step-mother Rosalind who is constantly meddling to fix what she views as a faltering marriage and a much younger half sister who thinks romance is divine and loves playing with her new step-niece. Playing the roles of poor relations are Hannah’s daughter, Molly, and briefly a sister-in-law Sarah, two brothers, and a truly horrific father. All of these characters are great. Well, except the father, but he’s supposed to be a dick. Truly, the mark of a good story is not just how well the main characters play their part, but if the side characters are well written enough to make you want more. I can happily say in this case they do.
4 Stars. I will admit, I am beginning to think that no one in Victorian England ever just married. No, they all were tricked into it, or had to, or were put under an evil spell, or… Well you get the idea.