Friday, April 15, 2011
Gayle, the Earl of Westhaven, is fed up with his father, the Duke's, meddling in his life and to escape the endless marital machinations, he retreats to his estate just outside London. There he meets his new housekeeper, Mrs. Anna Seaton, who is unlike any housekeeper he has ever had before. She is obviously educated, she risks her position to save a housemaid from when she mistakenly believes he is trying to seduce her, and she is forthright and good company. She has also wrought several changes in his household and made it quite the comfortable place to live and it is not long before she is keeping him company and engaging in lively conversations with him. The more they talk the more he realizes that she is keeping secrets from him, secrets that he wants to help her work through. Anna is indeed hiding secrets from Westhaven, but she has promised that she would not tell anyone. When Westhaven's brother's come to stay at his estate they quickly discover that their brother's relationship with his housekeeper is not at all what one would expect from a master and servant.
Westhaven wants to save Anna from herself, but she is worried about bringing another person into her confusing and dangerous situation. She believes that she should be capable of taking care of her problems herself and is wary of asking a lord for help for fear he will laugh at her return her to the people she is running from. Westhaven decides to try to get Anna to help him by enlisting her help in furnishing a home he has bought for his sister, and when they get stuck in a rain storm they end up becoming much closer. He does not want to take advantage of her and she is determined to protect her virtue, but neither can truly resist the other and both admit to themselves that their deeper feelings are involved. Now he knows he wants to marry Anna and he can't imagine spending the rest of his life with her, but he bungles his multiple proposals by listing all the rational reasons why they should marry. Anna does love him as well, but she does not want him to feel trapped into marry her and drag him into her very volatile situation. But his need to protect her is stronger than her desire to solve things for herself and his entire family gets involved and makes it clear that they want her to be part of the family. Westhaven and Anna must both overcome extreme amounts of stubbornness before they can end up together.
This book got some very good reviews for being original and different than many of the current romances out there, and I agree that it was different than the most popular romances in that it was rather boring. It was very slow moving, not much really happened, and I realized when writing the review that the majority of the exciting plot was at the very end and I did not want to indulge it much. The relationship between Anna and Westhaven progressed incredibly slowly, and while I didn't particularly like this, I admit that the job still got done. It was made very clear that this two were developing affection for each other in a muted and more tempered way than I am used to reading about. There were no particularly funny moments, no moments where they were having a lot of fun together, just a steady and rather quiet progression as they got to know each other and fell in love. It was not particularly to my taste. Anna was a frustrating character because I wanted to like her for taking her fate in her hands and looking after herself and her sister when times got tough, but there were times when I wanted to slap her. I am not a fan of the heroine who refuses to ask for help because she doesn't want to be weak or be a bother to anyone, and this was half the story.
Her problems also served to make the book longer as she realistically could have told him about what was going on half-way through and Westhaven could easily have taken care of anything. I also don't like books that are needlessly dragged on when there is a problem that could be easily solved. Westhaven suffered from some of the same problems as Anna because he too dragged things out by stepping back and not admitting his feelings to Anna because he wanted her to be free to make her own choices. His fear and dislike of his father made him seem rather immature even if he did have a good reason for it. Fortunately this was a great little side plot and I liked to read about Westhaven and his relationships with the various members of his family. The plot involving Anna running from something was really kept me coming back and it was done incredibly well and not divulged until nearly the end of the book (which is why I didn't divulge it in my review but it definitely was interesting). It had mystery and plots and really showed how dedicated Westhaven was to protecting Anna and keeping her safe, and showed that his family supported him in his decision to make Anna part of the family.
Rating: A really slow, rather plodding romance with a very intriguing little mystery side-plot. It was an original and had it's moments and overall it was enjoyable.