Review: What a Gentleman Wants
What a Gentleman Wants is the first of Caroline Linden‘s books about the Reece family. After falling in love with A Rake’s Guide to Seduction, when I got my Amazon gift certificate last week I just had to go buy the two earlier books for my kindle.
I was not disappointed.
Lord David Reece, wastrel younger twin of the duke of Exeter, has spent most of his life so far getting into trouble and spending above his budget. An accident during a carriage race through a country village finds him with a broken leg, forced to rely on the hospitality of the no-nonsense Mrs. Hannah Preston whilst he reassesses his goals in life. Newly-widowed Hannah is raising her daughter alone, and will soon be forced to give up her independence and move back to her father’s farm once the village’s new vicar arrives. David soon finds himself growing fond of both Hannah and her daughter, Molly, and decides that they could be the answer to each other’s problems. A wife will give David the respectability he currently lacks, and marriage will give Hannah a future that doesn’t include drudgery on the family farm.
Unfortunately, David’s change of heart doesn’t last very long. Once the new family arrives in London David leaves ‘on business’, and Hannah is left alone to find out the truth: rather than cry off before the wedding, David has played a cruel trick on both Hannah and his brother. Instead of signing his own name on the register, David wrote another…
Marcus Reece never wanted a wife, let alone a presumed adventuress after the family fortune. He’s spent most of his life bailing David out of one scandal or another, usually with a liberal application of money, and at first it seems like this latest scrape will be as easily solved as the first. Until he finds out that David has involved their stepmother, Rosalind, in the deception, who arrives in London believing that Marcus has married and determined to match-make the ‘estranged newlyweds’ back together.
For Rosalind’s sake Marcus convinces Hannah to continue the deception, until the now-disappeared David can be found and they can arrange a suitable ‘separation’ from their unwanted marriage. Which means that Hannah will have to play duchess for the ton, and they will both have to act the part of besotted newlyweds…
Having started the series out of order and read Rake, Marcus and David’s younger sister Celia’s story first, I was more than a little confused when the beginning of the story had David courting Hannah, and not Marcus. I don’t imagine many other people will have that problem. It was interesting to see the relationship between David and Marcus and between Marcus and Celia, neither of which were dwelt on much in Rake, as well as the obviously mutual affection Rosalind has for both her stepsons.
On the subject of relationships, I would have liked to see more of a connection/friendship develop between Marcus and Molly, Hannah’s daughter. I have the feeling it was “told, not shown”, though I can’t with any accuracy pinpoint exactly what gave me that impression. Molly almost seemed to be forgotten about in some parts of the story, or just referred to in passing, though when she was included I liked her a lot. It would have been nice to see more of her, though I do appreciate that she wasn’t just a precocious Plot Moppet™.
Since it’s one of my pet peeves, I appreciated that again, there was no Virgin Widow. There were definitely sex scenes in this book, though towards the end, and they were quite enjoyable. Of course, the sex was far better with the One True Love than with the late husband, but in every romance novel the sex scenes between the two main characters are always far better than anything before. Even their earlier sex scenes. I suppose it could be worse; there could have been Christine Feehan-style marathon sex sessions. (Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoyed the earlier Carpathian novels, but sometimes I like some character development to go with my sex scenes. They don’t have to happen at the same time, though.)
Hannah and Marcus didn’t do as much growing as characters as Celia and Anthony did in Rake; since they’re both adults and the book takes place over a much shorter period of time, this doesn’t matter so much in their case. I would have liked to have seen more of the fondness develop between the two of them before jumping to the L word, but I suppose there isn’t room in one book for everything I want. If I thought I might be indulged, the list would never end.
I did find Hannah’s sentiment for her late husband oddly lacking – did she love him, or was she just very fond of him? I didn’t really get a strong impression either way, which is perhaps why I’m a little confused. Molly didn’t seem to miss him at all, despite the confusion over two ‘new Papas’, so I suppose I’m leaning towards the latter option.
Overall, I enjoyed this a lot, and am looking forward to finishing Rogue to complete the set. I wonder what the odds are of more Reece books – perhaps even Rosalind and the father’s tale? Highly recommended.