When Angels Fall by Meagan McKinney 501
Lissa Alcester has been doing her best to make ends meet and support her younger siblings, the blind Evvie, and ten year-old George. Things are not going well and without the support of Great-Aunt Sally, things would be far worse than they are. Their parents had died during a Great Scandal that left the children broke and with a great cloud over their heads. They don't know that Sally is really Ivan Tramore, the new Marquis of Powerscourt, who had once been their stable boy when he was nothing more than the bastard son of the old Marquis. One day Lissa had snuck down to the stables an in the heat of passion had said some very harsh things to him and struck him across the cheek with a horsewhip. Now when she hears he is coming back to town, she knows that he is finally here to get his revenge and laugh at the Alcester family's very long fall from grace. Coming face to face with him after all these years brings back all the old feelings and Lissa is terrified she will live up to the nickname, "Lusty Lissa."
Lissa is determined to make the best of things for her family and thinks the only way to do this is by marrying a rich man, but Ivan keeps getting in the way and chasing of all his suitors. She knows that he wants to ruin her and keep her as his mistress, but she cannot become her promiscuous marriage and wants to hold out for marriage. This becomes harder and harder the more Ivan presses her and tries to seduce her. When she takes a job Ivan's house to help him plan a ball, she is thrown together with him more and more and realizes that she has always been in love with him. Her sister meanwhile has been getting very cozy with Ivan's bailiff, one Holland Jones, who takes it into his head that he is in charge of the Alcester family and he demands that Ivan do right by Lissa. When she gets scared that Ivan is going to brush her off once he has gotten his revenge (aka. slept with her) she runs off to London and is up to Ivan to prove that he both wants her and is worthy of her.
I had read this book back in High School and had held fond memories of it, but like Elizabeth Lowell's Autumn Lover my memories are much better than the book itself turned out to be or at least I had much different tastes back in High School. The first thing I noticed about this book is that there is absolutely nothing told from Ivan's point of view and this makes the book severely lacking. His POV would have been very welcome, especially considering all the turmoil that Lissa was going through, and the things he were doing to her often demanding some justifiable explanation and none was ever offered. It is obvious he is torn between revenge and some very strong feelings for the girl he has never been able to get out of her head, but unfortunately wonderful angstiness only really works when both sides are really feeling it. This was definitely a book where I cannot figure out what really drew these two together as Ivan is surly and rude the whole time and Lissa is running around trying to keep her dignity and save her family.
Lissa is quite determined and I loved that she worked so hard to keep her family going and protect her weaker siblings from the world. However, she goes and ruins her own chances to get married several times (with Ivan's help, but she could have prevented it really) and I just wanted to slap her. Ivan and Lissa spent absolutely no time together as a happy couple, it was always tinged with her fear that he would abandon her and did not really love him. I usually like to see the two together and functioning as a couple for at least a couple of scenes. The sex/ seduction was different than what occurs in most modern regency novels, but was fairly standard for back then I guess. He doesn't rape her, but he does seem to have difficulty stopping when she says no and the seduction was far harsher than I am usually used to. And she is sad throughout almost all of it as she worries about him not loving her and it really lends a tragic air to the whole thing. This book is incredibly emotional, however it never really crosses into fun angstiness, just... worry.
Rating: I always look back on things with more fondness than they deserve. My rose covered glasses say three stars, my objectivity says one.