March 17, 2016
Someone get that boy a big can-opener!
Happily Bedded Bliss is the first book in Tracy Anne Warren's Rakes of Cavendish Square. Don't let that fool you though, because the heroine is Lady Esme Byron and she is the
youngest sister of the Byron's - another series by Ms. Warren. I'm not sure why author's feel the need to say it's a different series when some of the same people show up in it. I guess because the series name is changed that makes it fresh, but really does it? Not unless it's taking place on Mars.
In this story we have a delightful heroine in the form of Lady Esme Byron. She is nineteen and her whole life is in front of her. She loves nature, she loves to draw, she loves animals - in fact she has a ton of them. Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds - she's like Snow White. She is also a vegetarian, something rare for the time but not unheard of. Well one day while she is out wandering her family's land, sketchbook in hand, she stumbles across a man coming out of the water. A naked man. She is stunned. Because she is hidden from view, he is not aware of her presence. He decides to take a nap in the woods - naked. I guess he doesn't know about all the creepy crawly things which inhabit dirt/grass/leaves. Things which crawl into crevices. I digress. Anyway, after he has fallen into a peaceful sleep (even with insects crawling), Esme whips out her sketch pad and draws him. When he wakes up, he becomes aware that someone is there, but Esme's dog Burr leaps out from cover so he thinks it's just the dog and dresses. He goes his way and Esme goes her way, humming.
Well, there's a house party at the Byron's and any astute romance reader can see the writing on the wall. There is of course the jealous woman at the party who bangs into Esme causing Esme's sketch pad to drop to the floor. Guess what page the sketch pad falls open to? Yep, the naked guy. Well it turns out that this isn't just any guy. No siree. It seems our plucky Esme has chosen a notorious man-slut to sketch - someone who's Mr. Toad should have fallen off long ago - none other than Gabriel Lansdowne, Lord Northcote. Well, evidently Esme's pretty good at drawing because everyone recognizes Gabriel. Since the Byron brothers have convenient forgotten their rakehell days they become incensed and immediately storm into the countryside estate Gabriel is vacationing at. They pounce on him. They insist he make everything right with their sister. He has no idea what they are talking about. They pounce again. He doesn't have any idea who their sister is. They pounce again. Then they start to listen and realize that even though Gabriel is a long way from being an innocent, in this case, he is. But that doesn't really matter - he must marry their sister to avoid a worse scandal. So, two perfect strangers are wed. All of this takes place by Chapter 11. In the rest of the book we get to watch these two people who don't know each other as they stumble over numerous bumps in the road toward their HEA. Some of that stumbling works and some does not.
Isn't it funny how sometimes you like the heroine, sometimes you like the hero and sometimes you like them both. My favorite books are the ones that allow me to have a fondness for both characters. This book was not one of them. I thought Esme was a sweet character - she saved animals after all. She was gentle, kind and understanding. She was a tad bit naive but still managed to have a backbone. While she may have viewed others through rose-colored glasses, she was also quick to punish those who trespassed against her good will. When she is forced into this marriage, she wants to make it work and she puts all of her nineteen years’ worth of knowledge into it. Did I happen to mention that our hero Gabriel is thirty-three? A very experienced thirty-three. I can count on my fingers. That's fourteen years difference and it shows.
Gabriel. Gabriel is the one with the angst-filled problems. He's arrogant, cavalier toward women, very experienced and can never trust or love a woman. Granted his uncle, who was his guardian, treated him cruelly, and took away his dog when he was young. This traumatized Gabriel so much that he just couldn't become attached to something else - it all gets taken away. Then there was the girl he fell in love with who crushed his teenage heart, so he could never luv again. So he just wallows in self-pity hopping from one bed to another, never allowing anyone to touch his cold heart. Until that fateful day when one of his friends suggests that love has entered Gabriel’s marriage; what was once a glorious marriage is suddenly gone. Esme cannot understand what made her husband turn into a cold stranger. Then after a night of heavy duty whankee-roo she wakes up to an empty bed. Not only an empty bed, but Gabriel has vamoosed to London leaving her alone to deal with some pretty nasty servants and an equally nasty uncle. She doesn't allow Gabriel to do this to her. She eventually follows him to London and pushes her way under his skin. But then Gabriel turns into this maniacal jealous guy. So far Gabriel has two points I counted against him - abandoning his wife and then turning into a jealous moron. But that wasn't everything, there was also an "almost disturbing essence" about him and that had to do mainly with the amount of experience he had as opposed to the lack Esme had.
My third point against Gabriel - can openers. This is what I found disturbing about Gabriel - his experience or should I say the way he used his experience to do a subtle control over Esme. It seemed to me he really didn't care that Esme was an innocent. Oh sure, he wanted to make sure her first time was pleasurable, in fact he went to a great deal of trouble to see to that. You see, he was the owner of a massive Mr. Toad and he knew that Esme's wee little tunnel of love just would not be flexible enough for his super-dooper gigantor Mr. Toad. So, he needed to do some rooting around. He preceded to tip, dig, dive, plunge, spread. First with one finger, then a second joined in, followed by his big old thumb - all he needed was a can-opener. I'm surprised he didn't find the kitchen sink in there. Was it any wonder Esme was a tad bit sore the next day. Now, I am perfectly aware that romance heroes do a lot of puppet shows with their fingers but it seemed to me that Gabriel introduced Esme to a whole world of experience really fast, even after the first encounter. Of course Esme said over and over and over again how much she loved this part of her married life, but when I combine his experience with his subtle control with the age difference, it all came a little bit too close to setting off my ick-o-meter.
Bottom line, this book had possibilities. The heroine was sweet and lovable. But the hero was controlling and arrogant; he also had a ridiculous jealousy explosion and I hatesssss jealous heroes. So I give the heroine a B+ and the hero a D.
Time/Place: Regency England
And, my little Petunia's for your edification. Here is an example of an ancient speculum. Open up and say cheese.
Makes me tear up.