Monday, 18 November 2013

#CBR5 Book 138. "Private Arrangements" by Sherry Thomas

Page count: 351 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Lord and Lady Tremaine have the ideal marriage, according to society. Having lived apart, on separate continents, for the the last decade since their wedding, they are nonetheless all that is elegant and courteous in relation to each other. Until Lady Tremaine shocks everyone, not least her own husband, by asking for a divorce, so she can marry someone else.

Philippa "Gigi" Rowland was the wealthy only child of an industrialist, with a deeply ambitious mother determined that her only daughter end up a duchess. When Gigi's noble, yet penniless fiancee (a duke) dies two weeks before the wedding, all their dreams seem crushed, as the duke's handsome cousin, now a marquess (his father inherits the dukedom) is promised to another. Gigi still refuses give up on Camden Saybrook, manipulating and scheming to get him to marry her. Her plots are revealed the day after their wedding, and Cameron, who'd been a very happy bridegroom, leaves her in disgust.

Mostly the couple live entirely separate lives, their paths crossing only very occasionally. Mrs. Rowland, Gigi's mother, has never been happy about the couple's estrangement and has been sending letters to Camden in America with frequent updates about his wife's whereabouts and goings on. Both have clearly had lovers in the last decade, so it's extra shocking that Gigi petitions for divorce on the grounds of Cameron's infidelity. Cameron returns to London to confront his wife, and realises that he's not ready to let her go. He declares that he will only agree to the divorce once Gigi provides him with an heir. Gigi, while initially appalled, agrees, but keeps the truth of their arrangement from her fiancee, the young Lord Frederick.

Private Arrangements is Thomas' first novel and it was a huge success. I'm not surprised, as she does a lot of things that are unusual for romances, not least tell the story in a non-linear fashion, with half the book taking place in the present, where Gigi and Camden can barely stand to be in the same room as each other, and the other showing us the way they met and fell in love, as well as the complicated plot Gigi set in motion to snag herself a noble husband. It's quite obvious that while they may not like each other all that much, they are still attracted to each other. It also wouldn't be a romance if Gigi actually got granted her divorce and ended up with the oh so nice, but not very exciting Lord Frederick.

Gigi and Camden are also not instantly likable characters. You understand Camden's fury with her, but it also becomes clear that before he left her for good, he gave as good as he got to make Gigi suffer for her scheming. They make each other suffer horribly, and should probably both have been more forgiving and open to communication. Still, because they're so wounded and stubborn and clearly loved each other once, it becomes all the more compelling to see how they'll work through their differences and end up happy together. I'd forgotten just how painful some of the book is, though, and how vicious the couple are to each other. If you're looking for a fun and light read, this is not the romance for you. It's a stunning debut, though.

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