November 21, 2013
Ta - da!! Wut! Not a Regency?
In the Arms of the Heiress, by Maggie Robinson, is the first in the Ladies Unlaced series, and if the rest are like this one, we are in for a treat! We are also introduced to the time period
around the Boer War which puts this in a little more modern era - 1903. We have cars and electricity, but we also have long dresses, corsets and stringent moral standards. For those of you who identify with clothing, this is one of my favorite times - it is also the time of an interesting device known as the S-bend corset. That device made a woman's chest move forward and her butt move backward, hence the S. The Gibson Girl was also around. But we are not here to talk about butts, but a charming book.
We have a very delightful heroine in the form of Louisa Stratton, a sort of liberated woman. Or at least her idea of what liberated is. She has escaped from her strict family with her only traveling companion, her maid Kathleen, who also happens to be her only friend. She's rather reckless: she loves driving her car, barreling all over the country, seeing the world. Her family disapproves. In fact, her aunt would have her declared mad if she could. Which is why Louisa has invented the perfect husband, Maximillian Norwich. He does everything, he's charming, brave, handsome, intelligent and true gentleman...too bad he's not real. That is also a problem when Louisa is called back home because her aunt is seriously ill. What's a girl with bogus husband to do...well, she goes to Mrs. Evensong's Agency, an agency that fixes things. Mrs. Evensong finds a counterfeit husband for Louisa in the person of Charles Cooper. And, here's where the fun begins. Charles Cooper isn't anything like Maximillian Norwich. Oh, sure, he's handsome, if you can see past the thing he wraps around his head because he's got a problem with his one eye. He's also a little smelly, because he's been living in drunken squalor since his release from the army. He is a veteran of the Boer War; more specifically he was one of the guards at a internment/concentration/refugee camp where he had seen and participated in pretty horrific things. However, through most of the book, this part of Charles' life is seen as a backdrop and doesn't distract from the growing relationship he has with Louisa.
So, anyway, Charles accepts Mrs. Evensong's offer, accepts money and becomes the pretend perfect husband. This part of the book, where Louisa and Charles are playing at husband and wife, was perfect. The humor was great, their characters were wonderful, and the sensuality was hot. And, it isn't too long before Charles tells Louisa he is in love with her. Too long! Yipes! He's known her for 2 days and he tells her! The time element in this tale was amazing. This couple have only known each other for a day before they are falling in bed with each other. It's a only a matter of days before they are actually "in" love with each other, however - as a reader I didn't notice how short the time period was. Ms. Robinson does an excellent job of expanding 24 hours into something fulfilling. Watching these two people fall in love was delightful.
Did I have some quibbles? Yes, I did. There were other things going on in this book...tons of other things. There's the maid, her beau, the prune aunt, the corrupt cousin, the licentious neighbor who Louisa gave her virginity to, the old family doctor, the old family banker, the housekeeper, the butler...and all of them could be trying to do away with our hero or maybe our heroine. Someone is hitting our hero on the head. Poisoning him, shooting at him, putting things in the horse blanket...destroying our heroine's plants - oh no not the plants! Anyway, there is this little distraction, which I didn't actually mind, but what I did mind was the conclusion to all these nefarious happenings. It seemed to me that no one was really punished - everyone who did anything to the heroine seems to be forgiven, except for one person, there's really no retribution. Oh, you poisoned someone but you’re sorry so I'd better never hear you've done something like that again, you bad person, you. So, the wrap up of all the villains who weren't really villains was troublesome for me.
I do recommend In the Arms of an Heiress. I loved both the heroine and hero. Their love story was enchanting. I was really impressed with the way Ms. Robinson made time seem longer than what it actually was. Regardless of the villains not actually being villains, I think we have a wonderful series to look forward to and I think this is one book you probably don't want to miss.
Time/Place: 1903 England