Sunday, June 26, 2011
Falling in Love Again
Mallory Edwards married John Barron, a man she barely knew, in order to remain as mistress of Craig Castle, the estate that she has dedicated her life to but risked losing when her father died and the castle went to John's father. John has known all his life that he is actually a bastard, the product of his mother's affair, and he has worked hard to try to belong, but has never been accepted. The marriage had been forced on him but on their wedding night, when confronted by his very young and very innocent bride whose mother had drugged her to make things easier, he decides to make a life for himself. He spends the next several years in the army becoming a war hero and working his way through all the women on the continent. Back in London Mallory confronts him after debt collectors have taken Craig Castle away to pay off loans he has taken. On this very same night Bow Street comes after John for these unpaid debts and after the initial confusion, he realizes that his uncle, whom he had entrusted with his finances, has stolen from him.
He and Mallory are thrown into this crazy situation together and decide to "hide out" near London and wait for his uncle to reappear so they can confront him and make things better. They pretend to be Mr. and Mrs. Dawson and take a job as steward at one of his friend's estates near London. Mallory wants a divorce so she can marry a man local to Craig Castle, but John has no intention of letting her go now that he knows what he has missed all these years. Meanwhile both of them throw themselves wholeheartedly into their new roles; John meets the local folk and, with Mallory's farming knowledge, begins plans to harvest the field and throw a large harvest home festival for all the tenants. Mallory has trouble connecting with the locals and John helps her overcome her embarrassment and her inability to fit in. But just as John realizes that he is in love with her, she discovers that he has more secrets from her and decides that she can never trust him again. Louis shows up and the chance to fix everything arises and both of them realize that despite their problems they can work together and fall in love.
I was immediately struck by the similarities between this book and The Earl Claims His Wife because it featured a man who left his wife on their wedding night and years later she wants a divorce to marry another, but he decides that now is the time to court his wife and win her love. I have to admit it is not my favorite idea for a plot and I put off reading this because of it: even though Maxwell has done this plot successfully in the past, I was not looking forward to another jerk hero. John wasn't precisely a jerk and his motives for leaving her were reasonable, but the fact that he didn't even talk to her or attempt to communicate with her after he had left and his behavior (lots of mistresses) left me wondering if I could forgive him. I feel like she did do a good job of showing how he changed and came to appreciate his wife and was worthy of her love, but I still couldn't get over his shabby treatment of her. I wanted to like Mallory; she was smart she worked hard and cared so much and I loved her insecurity about other people, but it was her feelings about John that made it difficult to like her.
I hated that she had carried a torch for him all these years and I felt like she succumbed to him far too easily. He was definitely the hero who smiled and made all the bad things disappear and I wanted her to be stronger than that. It was even more frustrating because I thought her reaction to discovering her virginity was completely overdone; she had forgiven him for so much and this seemed like a small thing. I also did not like her ability to completely throw over this other man that he wanted to marry and I was horrified that one of her "excuses" was that he had two sickly sisters and she did not want her children to be sickly and was thankful that John was healthy. Seriously?! There was very little sex, it was not at all hot, and there were a lot of times when it was just alluded to and unfortunately I was okay with that because I really did just want to finish the book. I did enjoy the plot about John losing all of his money and how they were going to get it back, and while it was nice that it wasn't overwhelming I thought it odd that such an important part was dropped for a majority of the book.
Rating: The book was fun at times and certainly fast, but the relationship between John and Mallory left me fairly cold for the most part even while I did want to like Mallory.