Fiery, strong-willed Deb Grantham, who presides over a gaming house with her aunt, is hardly the perfect wife for the young and naive Lord Mablethorpe. His lordship’s family is scandalized that he proposes to marry one of “faro’s daughters”, and his cousin the proud, wealthy Max Ravenscar – decides to take the matter in hand. Ravenscar always gets his way, but as he and Miss Grantham lock horns, they become increasingly drawn to each other. Amidst all the misunderstandings and entanglements, has Ravenscar finally met his match?
Publisher and Release Date: Naxos AudioBooks, July 25, 2014
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
This is one of the most antagonistic historical romances I’ve ever read, but it is very enjoyable. The hero and heroine spend more time arguing than anything else, and this reminded me a little of Darcy and Elizabeth from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Is antagonism a sign of deep sexual attraction? Hmm…
Max Ravenscar, a powerful and intelligent man, will never allow Miss Deb Grantham to marry his green and vulnerable cousin, Adrian, a rich young gentleman, even though Adrian is completely besotted with her. Deb works in her aunt’s gaming hell, an endeavor borne out of financial straits rather than by thoughtful choice. She’s crafty, intelligent, and devastatingly beautiful, and she has no intention of marrying an infatuated young boy like Adrian Mablethorpe.
So she is outraged when Ravenscar threatens her. The nerve of the man to think her so cheap and conniving as to entrap an unsophisticated youth. He tries bribing her and that’s when she snaps. She’ll teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.
Deb decides to lead Adrian on and during the course of the story, Deb and Adrian encounter a victimized young heiress fleeing from an older man her family insists she marry. This constitutes the secondary love story in the book and it’s more of a convenience than anything else.
There is humor here but it is often biting and edgy. It often teeters toward the cold and malicious but never quite gets there. Which is a good thing, otherwise we would almost miss the hidden attraction between these two intelligent, stubborn, and proud individuals.
The secondary characters are quite colorful and add some much needed lightness to this romance: Lady Mablethorpe, Adrian’s mother and Max’s aunt who is horrified at Adrian’s crush; Arabella, Max’s delightfully coquettish half sister; and Lucius Kennet, Deb’s well-meaning but vengeful friend.
Laura Paton reads with a perfect drollness that matches the moods of the characters. The voices are distinguished and I especially enjoy her reading of the high-strung and nervous Aunt Bellingham. There is appropriately read emotion and antagonism between Deb and Max but sometimes it did make me cringe in its harshness. The innocence and naïveté of Miss Laxton is captured well as are the voices of the lackeys of the gaming hell.
Though scathing, the dialogue is a wonderfully large and engaging part of this battle of wits. We see both Deb and Max’s vulnerabilities and how each owns up to their mistakes and remedies them. The ending is especially lovely and makes up for all the hardship to get there.
But there is never any doubt that this is an exceptionally well written and enjoyable story, especially when listened to read aloud.