Love with the Perfect Scoundrel by Sophia Nash
Grace Sheffey, the widowed Countess of Sheffield, is determined to run away to her childhood home, the Isle of Mann, after being jilted by a fiance in favor of one of her friends- for the second time. When her carriage overturns on the way to York she sends her companion, Mr. John Brown, ahead for help, but soon the cold and her new wound become to much for her and she sets off herself in search of help, convinced that Mr. Brown had become lost. Michael Ranier finds her half frozen hovering under a tree and takes her to Brynlow, the estate he had recently inherited from a friend upon his friends death. At the home Michael and Grace find themselves all but alone as all the servants except a teenage boy have gone to town during the storm, and it is up to Michael and Grace to care for each other. Michael tends to Grace's wound and reveals bits about his past to Grace including his upbringing in an orphanage, but they both realize that he is hiding something from her. Spending time with Grace, tending to her, watching her nurse an orphaned lamb, and attempting to teach her to cook convince Michael that Grace is tender, loving, and good, and that the men who jilted her must be crazy. Grace is terribly proper and her marriage to a much older man did not entirely prepare her for intimacies between men and women and the lust between these two is explosive.
But Michael is a former blacksmith and farmer, not good enough for Grace, so when Grace's two ex-fiance's come for her he does not even attempt to make her stay. So Grace moves back to London and with the help of her friends in the widow's club she is a member of, begins to reinsert herself into the ton. Back at Brynlow Michael quickly gives up on life without Grace and heads to London in the guise of helping out at the Foundling home where he had grown up. As it is the Christmas season Grace, as well as her friends, have taken up with the Spirit of giving and their charity of choice, giving Grace and Michael plenty of opportunities to interact. Both of Grace's former fiances are doing all they can to keep the two of them apart, but a meddling grandma is the only one who seems to see where Grace's relationship with a blacksmith can lead. It is not long before Michael realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Grace and this means being truthful with her about his sordid past. Just as it appears the two of them may be able to escape for what Michael did (or didn't do?) in his past, said past catches up with them and it is now Grace's turn to use her new-found sense of independence and trust in her own abilities to make things right.
I understand that we're supposed to understand that her forgiveness of the friends and former fiances who had jilted her is meant to signify that she did not really love those men and that she is really ready to move on and find love ith someone else. However, it still seems just... too much to really believe that she so easily forgives these men and women and it seemed just as odd that the two men had appointed themselves her protectors after what they had done to her. Why is no heroine in a romance novel ever truly bitter? And the two ex-fiances themselves, I could not really understand why they were so dead set against Michael even after they had learned he was not what they had previously believed. He wasn't the one who left her at the alter for her friend! The two of them are supposed to be friends with each other, but it is by far the oddest friendship ever committed to paper. Their interactions are just nonsensical and ridiculous and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh or cringe-I mostly did the later. The author's writing is pretty, but it is pretty in a flowery, overly romantic style that I had difficulty getting used to. In addition I thought the entire "Widow's Club" was just a sad excuse for writing a bunch of books in a series.
The back story given for Michael, while improbable and definitely far fetched, is at least truthful enough to explain why he is so reluctant to trust Grace with his past, why he is so determined to protect Grace from himself, and why he is so nervous about even being in London. This was a nice change from little lordlings whining that daddy doesn't shower them with enough attentions while sending them to ritzy boarding schools. Grace, however, is not so easy to pin down as Michael. While it is understandable that she is intent on proving herself and leading a comfortable life for herself after growing up poor and then being pampered during her brief marriage. Her personality is a little bit more difficult to pin down. Michael just up and falls in love with her because her aura is innocent and pure and good and she looks like an angel, and this was just not something I could really get on board with. The author did a good job of writing about the attraction these two felt for each other and the sex between them, there wasn't a lot of it and very few little "lead in" scenes," were excellent, if a little flowery.
Rating: The book did drag a little and was definitely one of the slower reads in the genre, but it was fun and a good book with well written characters and no side-plot bogging it down. But overall, not exceptionally special in any way.