Kate Westbrook has dreams far bigger than romance. Love won’t get her into London’s most consequential parties, nor prevent her sisters from being snubbed and looked down upon—all because their besotted father unadvisedly married an actress. But a noble husband for Kate would deliver a future most suited to the granddaughter of an earl. Armed with ingenuity, breathtaking beauty, and the help of an idle aunt with connections, Kate is poised to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a familiar face—albeit a maddeningly handsome one—appears bent on upsetting her scheme.
Implored by Kate’s worried father to fend off the rogues eager to exploit his daughter’s charms, Nick Blackshear has set aside the torch he’s carried for Kate in order to do right by his friend. Anyway, she made quite clear that his feelings were not returned—though policing her won’t abate Nick’s desire. Reckless passion leads to love’s awakening, but time is running out. Kate must see for herself that the charms of high society are nothing compared to the infinite sweet pleasures demanded by the heart.
Time and Setting: London, 1817
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 Star Top Pick
Review by Caz
A Woman Entangled is the third novel in Cecilia Grant’s Blackshear Family series and in it, we follow the path to true love followed by Nicholas Blackshear, the middle brother and London Barrister whom we have glimpsed previously in both A Lady Awakened and A Gentleman Undone.
Nick has his eye on a future career in politics, and has been doing quite well in his chosen profession, until, that is, his younger brother Will made rather a scandalous marriage (as told in A Gentleman Undone) and caused a scandal that has had repercussions for Nick. The briefs are no longer coming his way as thickly as they used to, and knowing this, his friend and mentor, Charles Westbrook, gives Nick’s name to a recently ennobled baronet who is looking for someone to tutor him in the art of argument and public speaking.
The Westbrooks are also the subject of society’s censure owing to the fact that Charles Westbrook, the son of an earl, married an actress against the wishes of his family, who immediately cut all contact with him and have not acknowledged him or his family ever since. But Westbrook and his wife made a love match; Mrs Westbrook is shown to be a woman of sense, intelligence and more good-breeding than many of the matrons of the ton, and their children, too, do not feel as though they have lost anything by being ignored by their father’s noble relatives.
All of them except the eldest daughter, Kate. Well aware that finding husbands for her three younger sisters is going to be difficult without the Westbrooks having either money or consequence on their side, Kate has determined to restore her family to its rightful place in society by using the most powerful means at her disposal. Herself. While she is not vain, Kate knows herself to be uncommonly beautiful and sets out to find herself a rich, titled husband.
I’ve seen that quite a few readers have taken a dislike to Kate for her mercenary attitude, but I didn’t feel that way at all. For one thing, her motives are – for the most part – completely unselfish. She doesn’t think too much about whether she can be happy with whomever she sets her sights on and is more concerned with providing an entrée into good society for her sisters. And when she is being ‘herself’ rather than playing the part of the breathless ingénue, Kate is kind and quick-witted – certainly quick-witted enough to despise herself for having to act like a simpering chit towards all the young men she encounters.
Well – all the young men she encounters but one.
Kate and Nick have known each other for three years and at the beginning of their acquaintance, Nick was just as bowled over by her looks as any of the other men she meets. But Kate, having determined on making an advantageous marriage, very quickly and discreetly discouraged him.
Although hurt at the time, Nick quickly came to acknowledge that Kate wouldn’t be a suitable wife for him. What he needs is someone who can share his interests and help him in his political ambitions rather than someone who aims to make a place for herself as a society beauty. Or rather, that’s what he keeps telling himself, because despite all, he still carries a torch for Kate.
And even though Kate is coming to realise that she is far more attracted to Nick than she had ever realised, she refuses to be deterred from her goal of finding a well-connected husband; and when, at last, circumstances conspire to reveal to her the true nature of her feelings for him, she is devastated at the thought she might have come to the realisation too late.
As one would expect from Cecilia Grant, this is a beautifully written story. Her wonderfully understated and economical prose perfectly conveys the deeply felt emotions that run throughout, whether it be Nick’s longing for Kate or hers for him; or the quiet acceptance, tinged by sadness of Charles Westbrooks’ acceptance of his family’s attitude towards him and his wife and children. Nick’s eventual reconciliation with Will is a tiny gem of a highlight in the story, as Nick finally admits how much he has missed his brother.
I admit, I found this book to be rather less “weighty” than the earlier ones in the series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the central romance is beautifully handled. Unlike Martha in A Lady Awakened or Will in the previous book, Nick and Kate have to overcome obstacles which are almost entirely of their own making, which I suppose can lead the reader to scratch her head and wonder why they were being so wilfully blind. But that, I suppose is the point. It’s clear that Nick and Kate belong together. He is the only man she feels she can truly be herself with; and she is one of the few people in whom he confides. Their story is about overcoming self-deception and letting go of misconceptions in order to live the life that might be different from originally envisaged, but that is in no way less than the life they deserve.
I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too. I post all my reviews at Caz’s Reading Room and at my Goodreads page, so please come and say hello!