Sunday, September 11, 2011
Marrying the Marquis
Blaze Flambeau is one of seven illegitimate daughters of the Duke of Inverary and his longtime mistress and her step-mother, the new duchess, is determined to see her and all of her sister's married off. However, Blaze is different than most of the young women of the ton because she has a connection with animals and can communicate with them. Not only is she a vegetarian (who eats eggs and butter and drinks milk) but she holds funerals for her step-mother's furs. The duchess invites 3 young men to a dinner/ party to meet Blaze; Ross, the Marquis of Awe, Ross's older half-brother, Dirk Stanley, an Earl in his own right, and Prince Lykos Kazanov and the Duke holds no doubt that Ross is the one who is meant for his daughter. Ross discovers that Blaze is just as into horse racing as he is and decides that the best way to win her heart is to help her prepare her filly, Pegasus, for upcoming races in order for her to win a Crown. Pegasus' problem is that she doesn't like to ride between two horses but because the horse race is so soon they agree that Blaze will ride her because of the telepathy.
Throughout all of this the Duke is trying to discover who murdered his horse jockey and he enlists the help of Blaze to spy on Ross, who is a possible suspect, and another daughter, Raven, who has the ability to "sense" things when she touches objects. Luckily Blaze is doing splendidly as a horse jockey, even though she has to pretend to be a man, but in an attempt to get closer to Blaze, Ross blackmails her into being intimate with him, even while ensuring that she was willing, about her participation in the race. During a second race someone attempts to poison her and suddenly everyone recognizes that there is a mad man out there trying to do away with people working with the jockey club. People also discover that Blaze is pregnant and suddenly both Blaze and Ross have a way to get what they want, marriage to each other, even while neither will admit it to the other and Ross' mother makes it clear that she does not want Blaze in her family. The race is on to discover who wants to hurt Blaze and the other people and horses in the jockey club and only then can Blaze and Ross settle in to a life of happiness and love.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of paranormal romances or where there are completely unrealistic/ ridiculous little bits thrown in and her ability to commune with animals was just something that I do not want to read in my romances. Perhaps because there's always a certain amount of belief that needs to be suspended to enjoy a historical romance and ghosts and animal talking just means I need to suspend all belief and just give up and think of it all as just made up fluff. What irritates me the most about this though is that the book gives away none of this on the back blurb and was just left as an unpleasant surprise for me. Even aside from her unbelievable abilities, Blaze continued to push the boundaries of realism because of her complete lack of any of the sensibilities a woman, or even a person, in the 19th century would possess. She got away with ruining costly possessions, riding a horse in a horse race, interrupting her father's business meetings, and interfering in jockey club business. While I found her love of animals a fun character quirk, it was just done too oddly, unlike Kleypas' Love in the Afternoon.
Ross was another unexciting romance novel hero, with a take charge personality, a wealth of information on a very manly topic and a desire to protect the heroine. His desire to marry Blaze surfaced very abruptly when all he seemed to know about her was her ability to communicate with animals, which doesn't seem like the basis for a strong relationship. And his ploy to get her into bed was not only ridiculous, but also made me feel a little icky even while he "made sure" that she was willing. Sadly enough, the most interesting part of this book was the horse racing that occurred in the first half, which is not a good sign since I don't even like horse racing. The mystery over what was happening to the jockeys and the horses was interesting enough because it contained quite a lot of clues and twist and turns and, while not a complete surprise, was enough of a shock to be satisfying. I just wish it had not been so overwhelming and taken over for the romance, even if that was lackluster. I also did not like how the book so obviously sets up the next book in the series, especially since I'm not interested in them.
Rating: Two characters who were mediocre at best and ridiculous at worst with bizarre fantasy thrown in and a good mystery where the best going for it was horse racing- my least favorite "sport."