To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn
Heiress Caroline Trent runs away from her guardian Oliver Prewitt after his plans to get her to marry his son lead his son Percy toward attempted rape. Once outside however she finds herself kidnapped by Blake Ravenscroft who mistakes her for the French spy Carlotta de Leon. Once he brings her back to his estate she decides it would be better to pretend to be Carlotta then to have him send her back to Oliver and Percy. She plays along with his game and Blake is furious to find his mortal enemy so fun, so frustrating, and himself unbearably attracted to her. Until his friend James Riverdale shows up and proclaims that Caroline is indeed not Carlotta. Blake is once against furious that he has messed up and that Caroline never bothered to correct him. His frustration with Caroline will last pretty much the entire book without exception. She has spent nearly her entire life desperate and lonely going from one guardian to another and wants nothing more than to find a happy family and hopes that Blake could be the one. Blake is determined never to love or get married after his former fiance was murdered while on a foolish mission for the war Office.
James and Blake reveal to Caroline that they were looking for Carlotta because they believe Oliver has been involved in smuggling and passing important information to the French for years. So the three begin plans to take down the entire operation which involves Caroline living in secret with Blake for several more weeks. The two get along horribly with Caroling rearranging his garden and his library and his servants all out declaring war against him whenever Caroline is not treated properly. immense amonts of witty banter and sparring ensues until eventually James leaves claiming he can no longer stand it. His sister's unnannnounced visit makes things much more difficult and she declares that either James or Blake will have to marry her. Blake is furious but of course eventually gives in and marries Caroline. Once in the married state she quickly admits to her feelings but Blake holds back for fear as being as weak as he was when he lost Marabelle. Then it is time to take down Oliver's operations and when things go wrong Blake is forced to confront his own feelings and a cute little epilogue lets the readers know we got our happily-ever-after.
So many authors resort to witty banter and sparring to illustrate that our two protagonists can match each other and have fun matching intellects with each other. However, page after page of it quickly got old. The two almost never had a decent conversation that wasn't arguing, not so cleverly disguised as gentle sparring, or arguing about Marabelle and his feelings/ future that wasn't disguised at all. And the Marabelle thing got old quickly. I understand that he's upset and felt that he should have protected his fiance, but she went out afte promising him she wouldn't and died while he was ill. After so many years I didn't feel it necessary for him to swear off love and future happiness because of her. Surprisingly enough though she wasn't portrayed as an awful person- she was the "she would want you to be happy" type. I wanted some sort of angst outside of Marabelle- a family member who didn't like her, a realistic chance that Blake might have lost her to James- anything not a gross relic of past love. I was happy with the way that the smuggling/ spying ring was handled. It was a central part of the story and indeed set up our two protagonists to meet but did not take over everything.
Rating: The book was fun and fast and I liked the characters by themeslves, but none of those made up for the incessant sparring or the lack of hot sex. All in all not very sticking (In truth I may have read this before and not remembered).