Tuesday 19 February 2013

#CBR5 Book 18. "Blame It on Bath" by Caroline Linden

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Gerard de Lacey may be declared illegitimate because of a clandestine marriage his father, the recently deceased Duke of Durham, entered into in his youth, before he married Gerard's mother. A year before his death, the Duke started receiving letters blackmailing him. Now the London gossips won't stop talking about the "Durham Dilemma", his brother Edward is busy trying to prove their legitimacy through legal means, and his older brother Charlie, the heir, is mainly staying far away from the whole business. Gerard thinks the best way of solving the situation is tracking down the blackmailer. He also plans on finding himself a rich wife as soon as possible, so that he can secure his future, even if the scandal is not resolved in the de Lacey brothers' favour.

The blackmail letters were posted from Bath, so Gerard resolves to go there. Before he even leaves London, he may have solved the issue of securing a rich bride. Lady Katherine Howe, a recently widowed lady, approaches him at an inn, offering him marriage and her enormous fortune of nearly one hundred thousand pounds. She needs a husband in a hurry, or she'll have to marry her dead husband's unpleasant nephew. She knows Gerard needs money, in case the courts declare him and his brothers bastards. What she doesn't tell Gerard is that she grew up not far from the ducal seat in Sussex, and has nurtured an unrequited infatuation for him for over a decade.

So Gerard suddenly finds himself very much married, to a complete stranger. It doesn't take him long to see that the combination of Katherine's beautiful, drama-queen mother, and her much older, stern and overbearing former husband have had a massive impact on her self-esteem, confidence and general demeanour  She seems desperate to please him, and is extremely surprised every time he wants to spend any time talking to her or you know, have marital relations with her. She's even more surprised to find out that sex can be fun and enjoyable. Of course, he also needs to learn that actually sharing his thoughts and feelings with his wife is good, she won't just be distracted with more smexy times every time difficult topics come up.

I mentioned that I liked the fact that the heroine in the last book in the series, One Night in London, was a widow with a happy former marriage, who seemed to have a very positive attitude to romance, sex and relationships in general. Well, here we get the opposite. Poor Lady Katherine has been told that she's plain and dull and unattractive since she was little, and her mother has made sure she got everyone's attention at all times by making sure her daughter dressed in frumpy, unflattering clothing. Then she was married off to a much older man, who mistreated her and had several affairs.

So it's no surprise that she built her infatuation of the gallant young Gerard de Lacey up as something wondrous, and decided to go after him when he was finally in a position that he was unlikely to accept her offer of marriage. He really does a very good job being patient and understanding and encouraging, insisting that she buy colourful and pretty dresses and not cower all the damn time. I can't really fault him for being so thoughtless that when he finally gets a lead in the blackmailing case, he goes off for weeks without sending her word, because it's established that he's rather impulsive and rarely thinks things through carefully.

I still enjoyed this book a lot, if maybe not quite as much as the first book in the series. Next up - the resolution of the whole blackmailing scandal, and the eldest brother Charlie's book.

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