I started this book a week ago and found myself remembering exactly why I’ve only read this book all the way through exactly once. I was never all that fond of the premise, and the beginning of the book is excruciatingly slow. But I decided to persevere to get into the rest of the series and get this universe reread off the ground.
Felicity Worthington is the daughter of a viscount who died and didn’t make any arrangements for either Felicity or her younger sister, Astrid. A cousin leaves Felicity her brothel with specific instructions as to how she’ll inherit the business and property—allowing Gareth Alexander, the notorious Marquess of Alexander, to tutor her in the ways of the business which will include a written and possible physical examination to ensure the loss of her virginity.
Yeah, it’s kind of a weird premise and according to her official site, this book is Grace Burrowes’ first foray in romance writing. This makes sense. There’s not much of a plot for the first fifty pages which does make this book excruciating to get into, and I nearly abandoned it myself despite having already finished it once.
But then it gets going, and the romance is a bit sweet even if Gareth’s tragic backstory doesn’t quite measure up to what we think it will. There’s a nice cast of supporting characters, particularly Andrew and Astrid, whom we’ll see in the next book.
What makes this book enjoyable is the emotional vulnerability and honesty these characters possess by about 75% of the way through the book. I like a conflict where the thing that prevents the characters from being together is something internal to them—something they believe to be true about themselves or their situation that is incompatible for the Happily Ever After.
It’s a slow, and at times, painful read, but the seeds of what I love about Grace Burrowes are present by the end of the book and they show up full force in the second one. It’s worth reading and not giving up after the beginning.
The premise does drag the book down, but by the end Burrowes decided to invalidate in a lot of ways of making it clear the cousin never meant for Felicity to be the heir. There’s a legitimate secret firstborn son who was supposed to be tutored in the business by Gareth, and those physical requirements were just added by unscrupulous solicitors on behalf of someone who wanted revenge on Gareth. It’s a bit murky, but it’s easier to buy than everyone going along with the first part of the plot.
What I liked about this book is that I always understood why Felicity might go along with something like this. A woman in her position has few options, particularly one who hopes to still see her sister settled well. Felicity, on her own, probably would have gone into service, but where would that have left Astrid?
The love story is good and if you buy Gareth’s conviction that he is a terrible choice for Felicity, then the conflict between them is also good. I really liked that Felicity didn’t lose her virginity until after Gareth has exposed that part of the will as being bullshit. It made it their choice — and a fitting way for them to say goodbye. At least temporarily, though they both think it’s for good.
I do wish Gareth had come a bit closer to realize whatever he was atoning for was not his fault and resolving his internal conflict on his own, but I actually wasn’t really wild about his backstory so when Felicity does the convincing, it’s almost okay that Gareth gets over it because of her. It’s like he didn’t realize how insane it was to get this ridiculous over an event that wasn’t his fault.
The tragic backstory is also Andrew’s backstory in the next story — Gareth only inherited because his entire family — grandfather, uncle, father, and brother were line before him but all of them died in a tragic accident, including Gareth’s fiancee. We learn that the fiancee existed because there’s a portrait of them. Gareth was being asked to marry the fiancee who was making noises about creating scandal, etc, and once he arrived in society as the Marquess of Heathgate, there were rumors he engineered the accident to get the title.
It’s not a great tragic backstory and the fiancee part of it is a really weird one which we’ll talk more about in Andrew’s book. I guess I’m just not entirely sure what jaded Gareth so badly that he’s the character we get in the first part of this book. Because his backstory is his motivation to keep Felicity at emotional arms length, it undercuts the romance.
It’s a nice book, but without a really good understanding of Gareth’s character, it keeps it from being a really good one.
Gareth: Lord of Rakes
Overall I started this book a week ago and found myself remembering exactly why I’ve only read this book all the way through exactly once. I was never all that fond of the premise, and the ...