The Earl Claims His Wife by Cathy Maxwell
On their wedding night, Brian Ranson, the Earl of Wright, told his wife, Gillian, that he was been in love with his childhood sweetheart Jess and intended to remain faithful to her. Gillian was crushed as she had believed herself in love with her husband and she was even more hurt when he promptly went to war and left her with his judgmental and cold parents. Finally after four years Gillian could not stand her living arrangements or her non-existent relationship with her husband so she left them all to move to her cousin estate where she acted as mistress. Just as Gillian is beginning to fall in love with another man, a Spanish baron named Andres, Brian shows up to take his wife back to London. He has plans to gain a position in Lord Liverpool's war cabinet and needs the help of a wife to do so. Gillian agrees but she has high hopes that eventually she will be able to convince the high ups in London to grant her a divorce. Brian has no intention of letting this happen, but he goes along with his wife for now. On the way to London Gillian's feelings for her husband begin to thaw as he reveals himself to be far from the cold, heartbreaking, villian she had painted him as.
It only takes that one night for Gillian to realize that she never really got over her love for Brian and she agrees that she too wants to start over and make everything better. Unfortunately Brian has not been entirely honest with her; yes he does want a new start with the woman he deeply regrets treating so shabbily but he neglected to tell her that he was caring for the son his ex-mistress sired with his own father. Gillian is devestated to know that Brian has played her for a fool again, but she agrees to spend 30 days helping with the sick infant, but after that Brian will try to help her obtain a divorce. Once again Brian has no intention on following through but he is quickly coming to realize that he needs Gillian by his side. He can not fathom how he threw this beautiful, intelligent, strong, independent woman aside for a woman who turned out to be false and he wants to prove to her that he really is worthy. But as Gillian and Brian realize that they're in love with the other the past comes back to haunt them in the form of an ex-mistress and a Spaniard and both are forced to trust the other and risk their pride to see if love is still possible.
I admit that I did spend quite a bit of the novel hoping that Brian would get a big dose of comeuppance as leaving your wife on your wedding night, after telling her you're really in love with another woman, is deserving of one massive slap. However, Maxwell did an absolutely stunning job of making Brian into a very sympathetic man who had been young and foolish and, upon realizing his mistake, genuinely dedicated to winning back the woman he had given up. I was shocked that my feelings about revenge changed so drastically and really it is just a testament to Maxwell's ability to really develop a character. Other proof of this includes Brain's change of heart over accepting a position as ambassador to Holland. Just a really great character and very well written on Maxwell's part. I did find it odd how quick Gillian was to throw Andres away after truly believing that she was in love with him. She certainly agonized over it but it just seemed like something a little off character for one who was normally very self assured and knew what she wanted and how to go about getting it.
One thing I did wonder about though: if the child had been Brian's how would Gillian have reacted? It would have been interesting, but I am very glad I did not have to find out because raising a man's child, whom he had with another woman while married to you, that just could not be romantic and I am very glad she did not try to make it so. As expected from readings of other books by this author there was some mild steam, not all that hot, but a quite good expression of the character's feelings for each other. I was a little upset that making love became a way for both of them to avoid very real, very necessary, discussions and there were times when he used her desire for him against her. There was some very fun bits of angst when they both begin to believe that the other did not return their feelings of love and really just some great introspection into the characters' thoughts and feelings. There were some appearances by some previous books' characters but they weren't entirely overwhelming or just an excuse to show that everyone really does life happily ever after. She does make mention that Lord Liverpool's marriage was quite the romantic love match and I wonder if that was artistic license or really based in historical research?
Rating: This book was very fast and just featured some amazing character development. I don't know exactly what made this book so awesome, but I really enjoyed reading it.