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Lady Wesley's Salon

Historical romance.

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The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #6)
Jennifer Ashley
A Woman Entangled (Blackshear Family, #3) - Cecilia Grant 10 March 2013
Not surprisingly -- superb. Rather different from the first two books.

Review to come closer to the June 25 pub date.

Thanks to edelweiss.com and Bantam for this digital ARC.

19 May 2013
Let this be a lesson to me. I read the ARC of this book in March but didn't write a review, as it's not coming out until June 25. Two months -- and many intervening books -- later, I can't remember all the reasons I liked it so much.

The silver lining, however, is that I've look at several very negative reviews already posted at GR. Almost every one bases their opinion on disliking the heroine for being beautiful and shallow, and for grasping at social elevation through marriage. Did they not read the entire book? Did they just skim over the interior monologue scenes? How could anyone read this book without realizing that its major point revolves around the growth and change the heroine (and to a lesser extent, the hero) undergoes; but even so, isn't it possible to admire a well-written, deeply moving story without adoring the heroine? Let me answer that last one: does the name Anna Karenina mean anything to you?

Rant finished. Now, I'll write my review. Thank you.

6 June 2013

Is everything I’ve always dreamed of really what will make me happy?

Kate Westbrook has always dreamed of marrying a man of wealth and position. She is the granddaughter of an earl, but her father was disowned by his family after marrying an actress. He has become a successful, respected barrister, quite content with the family he has created. Kate, however, deeply feels the sting of rejection, and so she hopes to make a marriage that will elevate not only herself but also improve the chances for her younger sisters and brother. Perhaps she can even pave the way for reconciling her father and his family and for garnering for her mother the respect that she deserves. Kate is beautiful and charming and exceedingly determined.

Nicholas Blackshear’s family is eminently respectable, or at least it was. Although his widowed sister has recently married a viscount ([b:A Lady Awakened|11938752|A Lady Awakened (Blackshear Family, #1)|Cecilia Grant|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1343277852s/11938752.jpg|16839861]), his brother has married a courtesan after fighting a duel over her ( [b:A Gentleman Undone|12769479|A Gentleman Undone (Blackshear Family, #2)|Cecilia Grant|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1321933178s/12769479.jpg|17913980]). Nick, an up and coming barrister, has felt the sting of society’s disapproval as respectable solicitors have stopped referring cases to him. Although Nick has quite publicly cut himself off from his brother, his promising career is beginning to crumble.

Kate and Nick are well acquainted, as Mr. Westbrook is Nick’s mentor and close friend. Nick is like a member of the family. Indeed, he once hoped to truly become a member of the family. Three years ago he fell in love with Kate and attempted to propose, but she cut him off and made it clear that her sights were set higher. He has remained close to the family and put thoughts of marrying Kate out of his mind. Well, mostly out of his mind. He knows, logically, that someone with Kate’s airs would not make a good wife for a rising young barrister.

So here we have two young people struggling in their own ways to obtain the respect of a society that has shunned them. Kate believes she is on the verge of success when her aunt, Lady Harringdon, suddenly takes an interest in her. Nick, who has political aspirations, sees his opportunity when young Lord Barclay retains Nick to tutor him in public speaking before he takes his new seat in the House of Lords. It does not escape Kate’s notice that Barclay is the brother of a childless marquess. Game on.

Quite a few reviewers have criticized this book because they found Kate so dislikable. I cannot agree. Yes, her plans may seem shallow and grasping, but consider what society was like in 1817. Moreover, she is pursuing this course not just for herself but also for her entire family. She dreams of her father reconciling with his brother the earl and with his elderly mother. (There is a heart-rending scene when Kate realizes that she is meeting her grandmother for the first time and the lady has no idea who Kate is.) She wants society to recognize that her mother is a genteel, decent woman – a Shakespearean actress and never a scandalous courtesan. (“ . . . a woman of character and intelligence, . . . daughter of a proud theatrical family, who studied Sophocles and spat on indecent offers from gentlemen admirers.”) She wants her younger sisters not to have to endure the insults of their schoolmates as she did, and she hopes to give them the opportunity to make good marriages. (“With every bit of her body she remembered that feeling of standing apart, shut out from the jokes and the gossip and the giggling over this or that girl’s handsome older brother.”)

I should add here that these secondary characters from Kate’s family are vividly and delightfully drawn, especially Kate’s sister Viola, a budding feminist bluestocking and a fan of Miss Wollstonecraft’s who is writing her own treatise on the rights of women. (When Kate urges Viola to try to be more charming, Viola retorts, “I’m sure Thomas Paine never concerned himself with whether or not he was charming.”) Indeed, I would enjoy seeing Viola getting her own book in this series.

As for Nick Blackshear, he is not the stereotypical alpha hero, and I like that about him. Oh, he’s handsome enough, but neither wealthy, nor dashing, nor arrogant. He has endeavored to put aside the hurt caused by Kate’s rejection and concentrate on his career. And he was doing a good job of it until his world was upended by his brother’s scandalous marriage. He thinks he can overcome this setback by rejecting his brother, just as Mr. Westbrook’s family had rejected him, but he has doubts and feels guilty. He feels especially guilty when he delays telling Lord Barclay about his brother for fear that Barclay will cut off their budding professional relationship. He is, in other words, a good and decent man caught up in a difficult situation not of his own making, trying to steer his way through the storm as best he can.

The changing relationship between Kate and Nick is real and complicated and beautifully written. Cecilia Grant is immensely talented, as already shown in her first two successful books, and her language is fully of the period without being off-putting to the modern reader. I urge any romance reader looking for a story that hasn’t been done to death already to pick up this one.