Friday, January 6, 2012
Sylvester Gilbraith is heir to the Earl of Stonebridge but generations ago the Stonebridge family suffered a schism and since then the Gilbraith's had not been accepted, acknowledged, or even tolerated by the Earls. Sylvester had served in the army and during a battle he surrendered to the French and spent time in a French prison, but because he was hit with a bayonet he cannot remember the circumstances of his surrender. People in England believed he had surrendered unnecessarily because his friend was right behind him with reinforcements and he was prosecuted for cowardly behavior and even though he was acquitted most of London society has turned their back on him. His grandfather had no choice but to leave Stonebridge estate to Sylvester but a codicile in the will places a restriction on him; he must marry one of the old earl's beloved granddaughter's if he wants any of the Stonebridge fortune, otherwise it will be divided among the women of the family. Upon arrival at Stonebridge estates he quickly realizes that the only one of the young women who suits him is the spirited, and young, Theodora, Theo.
Theo has no intention of marrying a hated Gilbraith, but she cannot deny her attraction to Sylvester and she desperately wants to continue as master of the Stonebridge estate. Sylvester uses her attraction and her love for the land and its' people to convince her to marry him and promises that he will not continue to be a manipulative husband. Unfortunately for him Theo is incredibly headstrong and incapable of reigning in her controlling nature and wants to be involved in everything, including Sylvester's problems. She is hurt when she discovers that Sylvester kept the circumstances surrounding their marriage a secret but she still wants to make the marriage work, something she is finding more and more difficult as Sylvester continues to hide his life from her. When they go to London his past is right there confronting them and it becomes obvious that someone is trying to keep the truth about the battle hidden and Sylvester is determined to clear his name. Theo wants to help but doing so puts her in danger and Sylvester will put his own good name second after saving the life of the woman he loves.
Theo was great at running the estate and cared about her tenants and their well being but she was incredibly young, incredibly naive, and just a little too much for me. She threw little hissy fits about things that seemed inconsequential and then forgave him for his "betrayal" of not telling her about their marriage so easily. But the worst was when she was trying to figure out who wanted to harm him and did some amazingly dangerous things. Things that definitely crossed in to too stupid to live territory and made me lose whatever respect I had for her estate running abilities. Sylvester was manipulative and did lie to Theo and I felt like his attitude toward her were very paternalistic like he did not believe she could make decisions for herself. He was withdrawn but I admired his recognition that Theo's help would be really welcome on the estate. There relationship was heavily influenced by the age difference between them, she was 20 and he was 35 and it made for a rather awkward romance in my opinion. I wanted some times between them where they were working on the same level; working together.
There was some sex between them but it was annoying because all of the "affectionate" love making where they did it for mutual pleasure were just flowered over and the times when he was using it to manipulate her went into more detail. I found myself wondering several times throughout the book how much a character's realization that they are doing something wrong make up for them actually doing something wrong. Sylvester used sex several times throughout the book to end an argument or distract Theo and he knew he was doing it and promised not to do it again so I found his self-reflection nice, but it was not an admirable trait. Theo knew she was meddling and that it wasn't always the right thing to do but she continued to do it and for both characters I could not figure out why they continued to do things like this. The plot about Sylvester's cowardice charges was really interesting and I was really drawn into it and really wanted to discover what was going on. It wasn't a mystery because we were given insights into the villain's mind and I enjoyed that and felt like this aspect of the book was well done.
Rating: A not quite romantic relationship between them and I wish they'd worked better together with an interesting mystery/ side-plot.