Thursday 25 April 2013

#CBR5 Book 42. "Married by Morning" by Lisa Kleypas

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars

WARNING! This book, being the fourth in the Hathaway series, contains certain spoilers for the third book in series, Tempt Me at Twilight. If you want to avoid them, skip this review until you've read that book, which you should go do right now, because it's excellent!

For nearly three years, the secretive Miss Catherine Marks has been the governess and companion of the two youngest Hathaway sisters. As the family is unorthodox and eccentric, and two of the sisters have married Gypsies, it's not the easiest task in the world for Miss Marks to instruct the girls on suitable behaviour, attire and conversation topics. She's grateful for the safety and comfort the position provides, but lives in fear that one day the dark secrets of her past will come out, and she'll be forced to leave them. The only fly in the ointment is Leo Hathaway, Lord Ramsey, a carefree and dissolute rake who takes great pleasure in needling and teasing her every time they meet. Lately, the teasing and barbs have changed in nature, though, and it seems as if there may be more than mutual loathing between the two of them.

Leo Hathaway never expected to become a Viscount, but when a distant cousin of the family died, he inherited the title and a large estate in Hampshire. After his fiancee died in the same scarlet fever epidemic that also nearly killed him and his sister Win, he became inconsolable, and spent several years drinking himself into a stupor or drugging himself into a laudanum haze. In time, the care and affection of his family helped him recover his spirits, and together with his brothers-in-law he worked to turn the ramshackle Ramsey estate into a prosperous enterprise. While not quite as scandalous and dissolute anymore, he's in no hurry to marry and settle down, until his family inform him that there was a condition in the former Viscount's will, stating that Leo has to marry and produce an heir before the end of his first five years as Lord Ramsey, or the Hathaways will lose a large part of the estate, including the house they've worked so painstakingly to restore and turn into a home.

After Leo observed the always proper Miss Marks in the garden with his new brother-in-law Harry Rutledge, in what was clearly an intense, and intimate conversation, they have a heated argument that ends in a passionate kiss. Catherine seems determined that they never speak of it again, but Leo can't get the governess out of his mind. So when his family inform him he has to find an eligible young lady to marry soon, he flippantly suggests he'd rather marry Miss Marks. After kissing her, however, he starts to get more and more comfortable with the idea of spending the rest of his life with her. Of course, he has to convince Catherine first, and that proves more difficult once a figure from her past returns, threatening to reveal who she really is.

In the earlier books, it becomes clear that the prim and proper Miss Marks has dark secrets, and that she's clearly hiding from something. In Tempt Me at Twilight, it was revealed not only that Catherine dyes her shiny, blond hair a dull brown, and spends a lot of time making herself look as plain and unattractive as possible, but that she's the younger half sister of Harry Rutledge, the wealthy and powerful hotelier that marries Poppy Hathaway. In this book, we finally find out exactly what nature her dark past takes, and what unpleasantness Harry rescued her from when she was fifteen.

Any reader who reads the Hathaway series in sequence, can see from pretty much Leo and Cat's first meeting that they are meant to end up together. Two characters who loathe each other quite so much, and spend so much time sniping at each other, are clearly meant to fall madly in love. In the previous book, their arguing was more like banter than biting snark, and in the epilogue, it became clear that something had happened to change their relationship further. That something is the kiss which takes place after Catherine and Harry finally have a chat about their estrangement, and settle into a more comfortable sibling relationship.

Once the truth about Cat's past is revealed, it's more obvious to the reader why she took such an instant dislike to Leo, whose public persona is that of a lazy, carefree rake, happily seducing women left, right and centre. As she sees him interacting with his family, and all the hard work he puts into improving his estate and bettering the lives of his tenants, she can't entirely dismiss him as a useless fop. Because of her upbringing, Cat has learned to distrust men, especially those bent on seduction. She's never really known the warmth and affection of a real family before she came to work for the Hathaways. She's terrified that her past will be revealed, and that the ensuing scandal will tarnish their already patchy reputation irreparably. Of course all of her worries are laid to rest, and the couple eventually whether all their challenges to find their happy ending.

I very much enjoyed seeing Leo's determined wooing once he made up his mind that Catherine was the only wife he wanted. His interactions with Harry Rutledge were fun in the last book, and are even better here. It's also lovely to see more of Harry and Poppy, who have now settled comfortably into marriage. One of my favourite things about this series is seeing the continued relationships of the Hathaway siblings whose stories were told in the earlier books. It's also why I'd recommend reading the books in sequence.

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