Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Bargain

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney 716

Lady Jocelyn Kendal is furious when she discovers that her father's will included an addendum that left her a massive inheritance only if she married before her 25th birthday. If she does not her uncle and his social climbing wife, Elvira, will inherit and that is something Jocelyn will not stand for. Unfortunately as her birthday approaches the man she has set her sights on, the Duke of Candover, shows no inclination of coming up to snuff. Her aunt Laura is a military wife and Jocelyn makes an excursion to St. Bartholomew's Military Hospital to visit their friend Richard Dalton. When she explains her situation he tells her that his friend, Major David Lancaster, is on death's door, paralyzed from the waist down, living on opium, and abandoned by the doctor's. David agrees to the morose bargain if Jocelyn will settle a monthly jointure on his sister, Sally, and the bargain is sealed. Sally is furious when she learns of what occurred, certain that Jocelyn is a spoiled society miss and decides to make Jocelyn's life "miserable and goes in search of Dr. Ian Kincade, a mad Scottish doctor with a risky idea that could save David's life.

To everyone's survive the Dr. is successful and David is quickly on his way to making a full recovery and one of the first things he recognizes is that he is not interested in ending the marriage. To make Jocelyn happy he puts forth the idea of an annulment and she agrees, but it will take time; time that David plans to use to convince Jocelyn that their marriage can be a success. Jocelyn's generosity of spirit and kindness to other's even wins over Sally and it is Jocelyn who helps Sally successful win over Dr. Kincade's heart. Things get more complicated when David unexpectedly inherits a Barony after his three older half-brothers die. Jocelyn accompanies him up there and the two spend their time outdoors, getting to know each other and the land. Even with the annulment on the line Jocelyn cannot resist David, but she does not know how to move her own fears of inadequacy and of people she loves leaving her. With David's help Jocelyn needs to take a leap of faith and take a chance on something real, something that will leave her happy and completely in love.

I was really impressed by the way Putney wrote Jocelyn because she was a really complex blend of spoiled lady, generous friend and employer, and scared and lost little girl. She certainly had her moments where she lost her temper and said things she didn't say, where she really came across as unlikable, but for the most part it was clear that she was caring and a good person. Her acts of kindness were genuine and it was easy to see why David fell in love with her even if it did happen really quickly. David was also great as the returning wounded war hero who was looking after his sister and even though it was certainly awkward that he agreed to a deathbed marriage, it made sense and I didn't think him mercenary in the least. His relationship with Jocelyn progressed really nicely throughout the book, very smoothly and in a time-realistic manner. He did realize his feelings for her a little early, but I liked that he took it "slow" for her sake and worked to win her over. They spent a lot of time together and really got to know each other during the course of the book so I really felt like I they were falling in love.

Because of the annulment hanging over their head, there was understandably very little sex, but it was relatively hot and there were some nice steamy scenes leading up to it were spicy. Jocelyn's determination to hold onto her hope of Candover got a little tiring, but was not overdone and just went to prove how great David was for not putting excessive pressure on her. Her childhood nightmare was not revealed until the end and while I could understand that it was traumatizing I thought that exploding it on me at the very end made it too much of an author's way of creating some conflict between them. I really really enjoyed reading about David's sister Sally because she was more like the "normal" girl who was looking out for her brother and was rude, but I could understand where she was coming from. Her romance with the Dr. was super sweet and I looked forward to those scenes between them immensely. The book was told through many different points of view and Putney did well writing all of them, but it did sometimes seem like a setup for her previous books or the forthcoming books.

Rating: A really great book with two well written characters who had an emotional relationship together, but the childhood nightmare was a little overdone for my taste.

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