Sunday, 3 February 2013
#CBR5 Book 12. That Scandalous Summer by Meredith Duran
Rating: 4 stars
First off, I have no idea what's up with the cover. It has very little to do with the actual contents of the book. I seem to recall the heroine being described as wearing a lemon yellow dress at one point, but the dress on the cover is both historically inaccurate (I'm sure Mrs. Julien would back me up on this) and completely different from any outfit worn by anyone in this book. Sometimes the ridiculous cover tropes really get to me.
Now having got that off my chest, on to the synopsis! Lord Michael de Grey owes everything to his brother, the Duke of Marwick, who pretty much raised him after their parents' bitter and very public divorce. He defied the expectations of society and went to University to become a successful doctor. When the Duke hatches an insane scheme for why Michael needs to marry and provide an heir for the title, he refuses to give into his brother's threats. He retreats into hiding in a small village in Cornwall instead. Determined to stay hidden until his brother gives up his demands, Michael plans to stay away from all women, so his brother can't force him into marriage. For three months, he's able to live in peace and quiet, until the notorious and charming society beauty Mrs. Elizabeth Chudderey passes out drunk in his rose bushes. A very merry widow indeed, if the gossip is to be believed, Elizabeth has taken to drowning her sorrows when things don't go her way. And when her suitor unceremoniously dumps her after he finds out that she's not as rich as he believed, she drinks even more than is wise, and ends up on Michael's doorstep.
Elizabeth is not as vapid and shallow as the society papers would have people believe, and spends a large amount of money taking care of her estates, and those who live and work on them. She funds schools for several young men in the village, and knows that she'll need to marry soon, and to someone wealthy, to support the running of the estate and all her dependents. A summer flirtation with a handsome, but penniless country doctor is certainly not what she needs.
Meredith Duran's last romance, At Your Pleasure, was one of the most disappointing books I read last year, and it was even more of a crushing letdown because I've pretty much loved all of her previous romances. To have a writer I've come to trust to write excellent, if often rather angsty romance novels deliver a book I could barely bring myself to finish was disheartening. So it was a huge relief when the novella that preceded this book, Your Wicked Heart, was a good one, and That Scandalous Summer has restored my faith in Duran and her writing, for now.
Michael is a bit of a rake, and certainly has a reputation as a ladies' man, especially after an unfortunate incident in his past where he was spotted leaving the house of a prominent society widow. He's also a dedicated doctor, though, and deeply scarred by first his parents' disastrous marriage, and then his brother's. At the beginning of the novel, he truly seems to believe that marriage is the fastest way to kill love, or even affection, and he has no intention of shackling himself to a woman and saving the title because his brother's decided to become a celibate recluse.
Elizabeth's parents had a passionately loving marriage, while she herself married a wealthy man for security and lived to regret it. When his investments turned out to be unwise, and she ended up a lot less wealthy after his death, she was further shown the unreliability of men by her faithless suitor. After her mother's death, she's clearly developed a bit of a drinking problem, using alcohol to numb herself in a number of situations. Yet she rarely feels the need to drink around Michael, and because she believes him to be the complete opposite of what she's looking for in a man (poor, untitled, working for a living), she's able to show him a side that she's never able to reveal to her set of wastrel society friends.
For those who have read some of Duran's earlier books, there is an appearance of James and Lydia from Bound By Your Touch and there's also mention of some other characters from earlier books. There's also clearly setup for future novels in this book, I'm assuming Michael's rather unsympathetic older brother Alistair (the Duke) is going to feature in one of them. Elizabeth also has a rather mysterious acting secretary who disappears suddenly at the end of this book (who also appears briefly in the prequel novella), so I assume she's going to get a book at some point. I'm happy to say, that based on this book, I will again be pre-ordering Duran's books in the future.