My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth
Caroline Grayson has always been the odd sister out in her family of five girls. She is amazingly intelligent, she has dedicated her life to botany, and despite her vast amount of knowledge and dedication she was turned down from studying with her hero, Sir Albert Markham, because of her sex. When her father discovers that she plans to go to Columbia University to work with other botanists, as she has pretended to be a man, he decides that the best thing to do is to marry her off. He blackmails Brent Ravenscroft, the Earl of Weymerth into marrying her. Brent had been on the continent fighting in the war for months and in his absence his cousin had sold all of his possessions to Caroline's father who only agreed to give them back if he married his daughter. Caroline goes along with the marriage, the whole time knowing that she will eventually get the marriage annulled. Brent is no more excited about the marriage than her, but he is excited that at least he will have no problems creating an heir with his new wife. When she refuses to consummate the marriage he decides to take things slow in their relationship.
Slowly the pieces of their marriage begin to fall into place. The two are both still adamant that they will never admit that they love the other, but it gets easier and easier to see that they are indeed falling in love. Caroline discovers that Brent has an illegitimate daughter and is the first to recognize that Rosalyn is deaf. When Caroline creates a language for Rosalyn to use, Brent is overjoyed that for the first time he is able to communicate and understand his wild child. Although Brent has a terrible history with women as his mother was a selfish witch, he begins to see that Caroline could be different- she could be the women who is worth finally opening his heart. When an evil from Brent's past in France resurfaces with the intent to kill Brent and all he holds dear, Brent has to skillfully maneuver to find a way to save Caroline. Unfortunately it is then that he discovers Caroline's plans to go to Columbia and before she can leave him, he kicks her out of the house without giving her the chance to explain how and why her plans have changed. Without Caroline in his life, Brent realizes that he has made a terrible mistake and knows that he must finally come clean with her about everything- including how much she means to him.
So Caroline is not your typical intelligent female in this book as she is apparently one of those super geniuses that pop up once in a generation or so. Her motives are so well explained that it made it so much more beautiful when she came to the realization that her future lay with Brent and her new family then with the plants and the studying she had previously devoted her life to. Her interactions with Rosalyn, the deaf little girl, were apparently well researched and I could not imagine the patience and skill it would take to communicate with a deaf child before an official sign language was invented. Brent underwent some quite intriguing emotional changes throughout this book as his feelings and his heart began to slowly melt each time Caroline did or said something unexpected that showed how much she cared for him. He certainly said some quite awful things and behaved like a right ass on several occasions, but his apologies were so sincere and heartfelt that I really felt his emotions shining through. I do wish their had been more sex between them, although what few instances in the book were quite hot and good.
What was just truly magical about this book was the way that both Caroline and Brent saw past each others weaknesses and managed to fall in love with each other anyway. Both of them knew their own weaknesses, and because of their feelings for the other, they worked hard to overcome these weaknesses and make themselves a better person. Something I noticed fairly early on in this book was that scenes and conversations are often very long. Towards the end these conversations almost lean towards being information dumps as one character after another has to spill their guts and share all their secrets. From the dinner parties to the sex scenes, everything seems to take twice as many pages as in other romance novels. However she does it so beautifully, and writes so well, that it does not seem as though she's writing too much or that there is an excessive amount of superfluous information. When the book extended on beyond the crazy killer plot I was a little surprised, but the rest of it was just so heartbreakingly wonderful I did not have a problem with it.
Rating: Beautiful book with two beautiful, wonderfully written characters. It did get a tad bit long but that did not both me at all because I just loved the book so much.