Henrietta Upperton is about to marry Alexander Sanford when he rushes off to India to salvage his family’s fortune. Then comes the devastating news that he has wed another. Eight agonizing years later, a storm washes Alexander ashore—injured, widowed, and hunted—and one glimpse of his ruggedly handsome face reawakens the desire Henrietta thought she had buried deep inside. Her body still yearns for his touch, but she’s determined not let him wound her again . . . not this time.
For Alexander, honor always comes first. But only now does he realize that when given the choice between two virtuous deeds, he picked the wrong one. On the run with his life in tatters and a pair of daughters in tow, Alexander burns for Henrietta. He knows he does not deserve forgiveness. And yet he longs to wrap his arms around her warm body once again. What’s more, he is sure the lady craves the same.
Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, August 2014
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Henrietta Upperton has suffered the terrible humiliation of a broken engagement to Alexander Sanford. As lady’s companion to Lady Epperley, Alexander’s imperious aunt, she frequently takes comfort in the words of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. She is also the sister of George Upperton – the hero from A Most Devilish Rogue, the second book in Ms Macnamara’s début series. This historical romance is the first in her newest Eton Boys’ series.
Lady Epperley claims she took Henrietta on as a paid companion to make amends to the family as well as for Alexander’s scandalous dishonor. When he returns unexpectedly eight years later, she demands he atone for his horrible behavior to Henrietta and tries to force the two of them together, much to Henrietta’s dismay. She’s still attracted to him but after her painful experience, she wants nothing to do with him or love ever again.
Henrietta has taken her life and fate into her own hands instead of wallowing in self pity, something I greatly admire about her. She once truly believed Alexander would return to her and marry her after his abrupt journey to India to save his family’s finances. He never did, instead marrying another. As a jilted woman, she is now ruined as no one else will have her. She also lost the friendship of Alexander’s sisters, Jane and Cecilia and, as a paid companion, she descended from the life of a genteel lady to that of a servant; she is essentially alone. Such is life for a spurned woman in early nineteenth century England.
Alexander tried to save his family’s precarious finances and instead, nearly ruined his life. Now he’s back a broken man, and he brings danger with him. At first, I was as appalled and angry as Henrietta is but, when I learned why he did what he did and the background for his actions, I did feel sympathy for him. This is a testament to the skill of a writer to make a sympathetic character out of a reprehensible hero.
Alexander holds several secrets and they unfold at a nice pace throughout the story, building reader curiosity and empathy.
Henrietta is a very strong woman as is Alexander’s sister, Cecilia, a direct and bold woman who doesn’t let Alexander get away with anything. She is a future Lady Epperley.
The sexual tension between Henrietta and Alexander is vivid and also supplemented by tender and sensual flashbacks to their romantic courtship days. But when they finally make love, it is disappointing.
I admit that it is not my favorite trope when the hero has a love child. This is very hard to swallow but I commend Ms Macnamara’s handling of a disturbing and realistic situation. She makes Alexander’s intelligent and well-rounded daughters seem real, not cutesy, and she portrays Henrietta’s great initial reluctance to get to know them well.
Albemarle, Lady Epperley’s beloved cat, is a minor but important character in his (her) own right. She has the run of the house:
“Albemarle sat in her usual spot at the head of the table, lapping at a porcelain soup plate full of cream.”
Alexander’s aunt, Lady Epperley, is quite the harridan. She reminds me of the outspoken Lady Catherine DeBourgh from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but instead has her heart in the right place.
I very much enjoyed the picturesque descriptions of the Cornwall coast, bringing a nice sense of place to the story.
“A salty breeze off the Channel disturbed the worn curtains and bore the cry of a few gulls. The gray water glinted with deceptive calm in the sunlight as it hissed over the pebbled beach below. Only yesterday, storm winds had whipped that water to boiling fury, enough to dash ships upon rocks.”
I didn’t much care for the climax and resolution scene toward the end with the villains, especially their rather silly nicknames. The overall effect is comical when it is clearly meant to be serious.
While What a Lady Craves is not my favorite story plot-wise by Ms Macnamara – it is a little too serious for my personal tastes – the writing, pacing, and characterization are impressive and Henrietta is a memorable and admirable heroine; her hero, not so much. And I prefer my romances with more humor, like A Most Scandalous Proposal, this author’s sparkling debut.