Saturday, December 11, 2010
The Year of Living Scandalously
When Lily Boudine discovers that she is the new Countess of Ashwood she does not want to go and dredge up painful old memories of when she accused the town carpenter of stealing the Ashwood jewels, so she sends her cousin, Keira Hannigan in her place. Keira plans on just making sure everything is all set up right for when Lily finally comes, but things quickly become complicated when the real countess is needed to sign off on documents and try to keep Ashwood from going bankrupt. So Keira pretends to be Lily and everything goes along swimmingly until Declan O'Connor, Earl of Donnelly, comes to Hadley on the Green. Declan has known Keira her whole life so he knows perfectly well that the new countess is a fraud, but he agrees to keep her secret for now. Declan has not entirely forgiven Keira for the role she played in the rape and suicide of another young girl as she was with her beforehand and provided an alibi that prevented the townspeople from searching for her so their relationship is testy at best. Nonetheless neither of them can seem to stay away from each other or deny their physical attraction.
To make matters more complicated for Keira she begins to suspect that the carpenter who was hung for thievery may have been her aunt's lover and that her aunt's death may have been a suicide. She enlists Declan's help and the two of them begin to question those who knew her aunt and the carpenter and it becomes apparent that people who scared into secrecy at the time of the trial and that a grave miscarriage of justice occurred. On top of that a Danish lord has bought the plot of land adjacent to Ashwood and is threatening to take over the most profitable part of Ashwood and open up a competing mill that would ruin the estate. Everyone in town regards both Declan and Keira (whom they think is Lily) as very eligible and try to set them up with their own eligible relatives and it drives each of them insane with jealousy. Declan has always prided himself on his freedom and he has always regarded marriage as a threat to that freedom. Keira has loved Declan for years, but she does not want to be the person who takes away his freedom. But when her secret comes out, it is Declan who comes to her rescue and who realizes that marriage to Keira would be freedom in its' own right.
Keira and Declan had a history before this story began and there were existing feelings between them, however those were mainly rather frustrating feelings and through the course of the story it was the more loving feelings that we got to read about developing. Granted, the two still did spend quite a bit of time at each other's throats and rather angry with each other. Keira was strong, capable, and incredibly smart really and it was great that she had someone to lean on in Declan who served as her helper throughout a lot of this book. Declan's desire for freedom was a little overblown and came up as a random road block and I definitely wanted him to get over it a lot quicker. The two spent an adequate amount of time together for feelings to develop, but for such a long book (423 small-type pages) I felt like it should have been much more. I did like that we got both of their perspectives throughout the book and a fairly equal amount of page space to each of them. There were a couple of sex scenes, but they mainly sprang up from arguments that the two of them were having and out of anger really.
The book was incredibly dense and long and things beside the romance took up quite a lot of the page space, which was nice because they were well done, but as usual I would have preferred more about the romance. From the beginning it is clear that the jewel theft will pay a major role in this story and it does throughout the book. It was incredibly sad and I admired Keira's determination to see things set to rights and discover the truth about what had happened, both with the carpenter and regarding her aunt's death. I felt like this plot took up a little too much of the story and did, at times, take over from the romance and while I enjoyed this plot I found it a little overwhelming for a romance. The plot with the Danish lord played a fairly minor role (that will become much bigger in the next novel in the series) but it was really well done as it showed how capable Keira was and how she dealt with pressure. It also served as a nice method for Declan to come to her aid and comfort her when she was not feeling well. As usual London populates her novel with wonderful secondary characters and while there was no one major, everyone was well developed and they served as great accompaniments to Declan and Keira.
Rating: I did enjoy this book but felt like it was too long, there was a little too much going on, and that Declan and Keira spent too much time angry at each other.