A Hellion in Her Bed
A Hellion in Her Bed features a hero who just won’t be tied down. This is the sort of plot device that can really get on my nerves when it isn’t handled well – and usually it isn’t. However, Jeffries approaches what is usually the tiredest of cliches in a thoughtful manner, and the result is an enjoyable, quirky read.
Annabel Lake is desperate. Her family brewery is teetering on the edge after losing a lucrative Russian market, a development that sent her usually-responsible brother into a drunken tailspin. She can see one way out, but it’s a long shot: She has to convince Hester Plumtree to work with her in a joint venture to sell their October brew to the East India captains. Unfortunately, when Annabel arrives at Plumtree Brewery, she finds Hester’s grandson, Lord Jarret Sharpe, instead. Jarret is running the brewery for awhile while his grandmother recovers from an illness, and he’s not in the mood to take any crazy chances. He agrees to run Annabel’s idea by his grandmother to see what she thinks, but first he plans to enjoy a game of cards with his friends.
Annabel follows him and ends up making a scandalous wager. If Jarret loses, the breweries will pursue a joint East India venture. If Annabel loses, she’ll share Jarret’s bed. Jarret is a notoriously skilled card player; in fact, that’s how he usually earns his living. He figures he can’t lose, but he gets distracted by Annabel, and she emerges victorious. He agrees to help her, and they journey to the Lake Brewery in Burton.
They are, of course, attracted to each other. Annabel has no plans to act on her feelings, because she’s been burned in the past. Her illegitimate son Geordie is being raised by her brother and sister-in-law as their own child. Though she lives in the same home and is definitely a mother figure, Geordie has no idea that she is his mother. Annabel’s fiance – Geordie’s father – was killed in battle. Ashamed of her status as a ruined woman, Annabel has since refused all proposals. Jarret is more in the classic rake mode. His parents were killed under mysterious circumstances when he was an impressionable age. He was sent off to school and took it badly, resorting to card games as an escape. He’s so used to living a dissolute life that he’s never given serious thought to marrying or having a family.
In some ways, this is a tale you’ve heard before. Heroine feels she can’t marry, hero has no intention of marrying – until boom! They fall in love. But it’s written with thought and care, so in the end the reader feels that the characters are people rather than types. I particularly liked Annabel. She’s resourceful, and though she takes several risks she does it with both eyes open. When she has sex, she’s careful (something you think would be a given, but so many heroines just don’t even think about it).
I also enjoyed the whole background of the ale-brewing world. It’s more than just window dressing – both Jarret and Annabel talk and think about their business, and both have a passion for it. Though Jarret is a lord, his background is nearly as common as Annabel’s; his mother married up. More authors seem to be embracing heroes and heroines who aren’t of the nobility, and it’s a trend I can really applaud.
Where the book fell a little short for me when it was conventional. Jarret dragged his feet a little too long for my liking, and strained my patience a bit. He does eventually man up, of course, but I would have liked that to happen earlier.
All in all, I enjoyed A Hellion in Her Bed. It was different enough to make me take note, and thoughtful enough that I am interested in the other books in the series.