the heroine killed this for me

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jnhoward Avatar


When the man who ruined Astrid Everleigh's reputation ten years ago after she refused his suit sets his sights on her younger sister, Isobel, Astrid is determined to keep her safe from him. She may be a spinster, but she's not willing to let that stop her. She just needs a forbidding husband to stand up to the despicable earl and who better than the infamous Beast of Beswick.

It just so happens that Lord Nathaniel Harte, the Duke of Beswick, is in need of a wife, or so his servants believe. But the war scarred duke isn't exactly fit company; he's more well known for wreaking havoc on his father's prized porcelain collection and snapping at anyone who tries to get too close. Thane had planned for a solitary existence after the war and instead found his older brother dead and himself a duke, saddled with responsibility. Now the last thing he needs is a caustic young woman underfoot cataloging his father's porcelain. She further shocks him by offering herself into the bargain. He has no need of a wife but soon finds him sucked into a marriage of convenience nonetheless and both Thane and Astrid rapidly realize they're in way over their heads.

I have some very mixed feelings here. I was so looking forward to this book as I'm a sucker for beauty and the beast stories, and while I did enjoy the story itself for the most part, it just didn't live up to my expectations or quite fulfill its whole potential. I really enjoyed the last 25%, but the rest was rather a struggle. I really liked that Thane and Astrid both wound up fighting for and standing up for each other in the end, but it was a long time in coming and many of their issues stemmed from or were drawn out by, Astrid's behavior. Thane was by no means perfect, but his behavior made a great deal of sense given while I felt that Astrid's was disproportionate to her past experiences and her character just didn't jive for me.

From this point on you enter rant territory and chance spoilers; feel free to skip it, I just have to get it out. Firstly, this whole book felt very modern and not like a regency at all. It was full of modern dialogues (such as "said no woman with half a spine ever") and lots of very heavy handed feminism. I am all for equality, but this was just like beating a dead horse and became ridiculously repetitive, almost laughable, and detracted greatly from the romance, which I found rather lacking. I very much understand chafing at the position of women at this time, but Astrid's behavior was very unrealistic. I had several issues with Astrid in general, the first of which being my pet peeve, forms of address. As the daughter of a viscount, Astrid would be an Honorable Miss, not a Lady with a courtesy title. More importantly, Astrid barges into this poor man's home, insinuates herself into his household, lies to him, insults him, and then wonders why he's not nice to her and uses this as another example of why men suck, without taking any time to examine how he might feel. She is unbelievably good at all male pursuits and is very arrogant, even trying to equate her adolescent heartbreak to the pain and PTSD Thane is obviously suffering. Most annoying to me was how hypocritical Astrid turned out to be. Her intention was to coerce the duke into marrying her and then when they're caught in a compromising position, she immediately blames him, saying he betrayed her. Her bluster and 'independence' make her sound like a petulant child always finding something to complain about even when she was getting her way. One minute Astrid is an unapologetic hoyden with the mouth of a sailor, the next she's complaining about some lapse in propriety and attempting to be stiff and proper, chastising Thane's language and claiming to be a lady. It just comes off as fake to me. Thane's injuries, while no doubt horrific, were difficult for me to picture. He is stabbed repeatedly by six French soldiers with bayonets and his description of taking on six bayonets "face first" has an almost comical feel to it that to me belittles his injuries and suffering. Thane was without a doubt very difficult to deal with in any capacity, but Astrid's constant baiting of him didn't help things and her honesty and maturity came a bit late for me.

This was yet another case of what I call "strong heroine syndrome" in which independence and confidence in a woman are presented as shrewish and hateful and I'm just not here for it. It killed what could've been a very poignant and emotional story about accepting love and feeling worthy, but it just missed the mark here. The steamy scenes were extremely well done here and I could feel the hero and heroine connecting in those moments, but those were almost the only times I could feel that connection and I would've liked more of that outside the bedroom, though I felt we only had one real scene where this occurred. I also would've liked to see the despicable earl and Astrid's aunt and uncle get their just desserts rather than have their plot line just fizzle out.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.