Friday, December 31, 2010
The Proper Wife
Viscount Sinjin Sandiford returns from years serving as Colonel during the Napoleonic wars determined to find a wife. His estate is in massive debt from his mother and father's spendthrift ways, but even though he's being forced into matrimony he wants to do it on his own terms. For years he was in love with his neighbor Sarah who was forced into marriage with the Marquess of Englemere, and he wants someone with similar qualities to her. Sarah was kind and understood the value of money and losing her was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but he admits that Sarah is happy in her marriage and she professes to want similar happiness for him. Even though he has never considered Englemere a friend, he offers to help Sinjin find a wife from among the middle class. Sinjin believes a merchant's daughter would be more likely to be helpmate, not as simpering and carefree with money as a noble wife. He knows for sure that Clarissa Beaumont, Sarah's friend, is precisely the wrong sort of woman for him. Clarissa is the darling of the ton and all has turned down several offers of marriage from the most eligible men in society. She dresses to her advantage and makes the most of the money that her family has and Sinjin sees her as a beacon of everything that is wrong with the ton.
Sinjin continues on his hunt for a middle class bride even while Clarissa's actions begin to chip away at the misconceptions he had harbored against her. She uses her popularity to help one of Sinjin's men who returned from war with a crippled hand and is being turned away by the young ladies of the ton. Suddenly Sinjin begins to think that the virtuous lady he had been contemplating for a bride is not precisely what he wants and that maybe impetuous and fun would be good things in a wife. There is a simmering passion between Sinjin and Clarissa that threatens to burst forth, which Sinjin discovers he doesn't mind at all. But she already knows that she wants something more with Sinjin and won't settle for anything less than his love. When Clarissa discovers a young woman who had been kidnapped and forced to work in a brothel, she decides that she needs to put a stop to what is happening. Things become dangerous when the baud goes after her and Sinjin rides to her rescue so that he can declare that he really does love her and they can live happily ever after.
Sinjin and Clarissa spent almost no time together in this book and probably around ten pages of their time together was spent without them fighting. They argued a lot and it was mainly about misunderstandings they had about each other or as a defense mechanism. He was convinced that she was a pretty bad person who didn't care about anyone but herself and she felt the need to defend herself against his attacks. There were times when it got really bad and they were really going at each other and I wondered how they could ever have fallen in love with each other. The love really seemed to sneak up on both of them and appeared out of the blue and was really not justified by anything that had happened in the book. There was a decent sense of attraction between the two of them and it simmered under the surface to burst forth at some very interesting moments. Unfortunately it seemed to be the only thing they did have going for them and it wasn't nearly hot enough to make up for the lack of quality get to know you time. A few kissing scenes and one very belated sex scene that was very lukewarm do not a relationship make.
This was especially a shame as there was a lot of promise with these two as Sinjin was so noble and judgmental and Clarissa so determined to present herself as frivolous even while she doesn't shy away from good deeds. I would have liked to read about them learning the truth about each other and having their relationship progress more naturally and have them fall in love and not just suddenly be in love. I did admire Sinjin for the way he faced his financial situation and was willing to do whatever he had to in order to make things right and that he was able to admit when his judgements about Clarissa were wrong and he revised his opinion. Clarissa was also great as society's belle who liked her admirers and looking good and still managed to try to do good in society. The plot involving the kidnapped girls was rather haphazardly done and lead to Clarissa acting in a very too stupid to live way. It was a noble cause, but I really wish it had been handled better. There was also a fun little side romance involving the officer she was helping. I really enjoyed Justiss' writing style as it was easy, descriptive and managed to convey both of their feelings, from both points of view, very well.
Rating: I really wish these two had spent more time together and I almost have a hard time categorizing this as a romance, but there weren't any major problems with anything in the book.