Saturday, 18 July 2015

#CBR7 Book 76: "Catch a Falling Heiress" by Laura Lee Guhrke

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars

It may be wise to read the previous book in the series, How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days, before this one. 

Jack Featherstone's father and brother were shameless gamblers and fortune hunters, marrying rich and squandering their wives' money with no compunction. As the unappreciated second son, Jack swore he would never marry unless he could support his family in a proper way, and certainly never stoop to fortune hunting to secure himself a life of luxury. Never being able to rely on his male relatives meant he established closer bonds to his Eton chums instead. So when his best friend Stuart, the Duke of Margrave, gathers all his friends and asks them for assistance in a scheme that will directly lead to the ruination of a man, Jack doesn't hesitate, even if it means moving to America for a year, pretending to be close to a man he despises, in order to orchestrate Stuart's revenge.

As the plan is in its last stages, and Frederick Van Hausen, the man who did despicable things to Edie, now the Duchess of Margrave, is getting desperate, Jack is watching the man like a hawk, worried that he's going to find some way of escaping personal and financial ruin. When it looks like Van Hausen is preparing to elope with Miss Linnet Holland, who is both beautiful and comes with a staggering dowry, Jack has to think fast. Interrupting before Van Hausen can propose, and kissing the young lady in front of her own mother, accompanied by one of New England's chief gossips, is the first thing that pops into his head. Linnet, wary of fortune hunters and outraged by Jack's heavy-handed behaviour, refuses to even countenance having her reputation saved by marriage to someone so arrogant and presumptious. While she previously refused to consider marriage to a British peer, she is now determined to find one, who is willing to marry her, despite the tarnish to her reputation. Anyone, except Jack Featherstone, that is.

Linnet and her mother travel to England, where Linnet engages the services of London's premier matchmaker, the Marchioness of Trubridge. Jack follows, determined to do right by Linnet and persuade her to accept his hand in marriage. As the matchmaker was formerly married to his scapegrace of a brother and now to one of his closest friends, she's aware that he's not the unscrupulous cad his brother was, and hopes she'll at least consider him a worthwhile candidate for Linnet's hand in marriage. He has a week, at a houseparty with several other eligible and eager suitors, to convince the proud and distrustful Miss Holland that while their first meeting was less than ideal, he will make her the perfect husband.

While I understand Linnet's wish to marry for love, and escape the social ambitions of her mother and the financial ambitions of her father, she also has appalling judgement when it comes to men. I respect that she feels aggrieved and upset that Jack accosted her, but she also should have had some suspicion when Van Hausen, a man who wouldn't give her the time of day before she went to Europe for a year, suddenly declares passionate love for her and wants to propose marriage to her in a secluded location on the same night she's back in America. While she's fairly innocent, it's clear that she's quite savvy in rooting out fortune hunters, and some alarm bells should have been going off. She also develops a very knee-jerk hatred for Jack and stays obstinately unwilling to listen to him, even after he explains the motivations behind his rash act. I get that she's supposed to be feminist and independent, but a lot of the time she comes off as abrasive and shrewish.

Jack, on the other hand, we are told is a much better man than his father or brother was, but he also surprises and kisses a very unwilling woman, then seems to be surprised when she doesn't want to immediately become his wife. See, despite Jack's rakish ways and long life in Paris consorting with all sorts of women, just kissing the unprepared Linnet just the one time is enough to convince him that she is the woman he must spend the rest of his life with. One of the popular tropes of romance is the "magical hoo hah", which means that after sleeping with the usually virginal and inexperienced heroine once, the sexually experienced and previously happily promiscuous man is ready for monogamy. Linnet clearly has magic lips, because she unwittingly accomplishes this with one single liplock. Jack keeps losing his temper and either orders Linnet around, or physically overpowers her (he actually carries her off at one point), which is naturally not the best way to woo an already skittish and suspicious-minded woman. He's a lot more likable when he calmly uses his words and affectionate nature to woo her.

This was an ok book, but nothing more. I didn't particularly like Linnet or Jack and didn't actually care all that much whether they got together or went their separate ways. Laura Lee Guhrke is an author whose books I often enjoy, but she's pretty much on my "borrow from the library" list, not even qualifying for "buy when on sale" status. This book passed the time, but I doubt I'll remember it clearly come next month, let alone ever want to re-read or own it.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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