A Necessary Husband
My feelings on Debra Mullins’ latest were all over the place as I read it the other night. And I read it nonstop, mind you. I was tense and irritable and yet I kept reading. I folded the corners of many pages (something I do when I notice something to comment on – usually something not good) and yet I kept reading. I rolled my eyes at the occasionally purple prose and yet I kept reading. Perhaps there’s an ATBF in this somewhere, but despite the many flaws I wanted to keep reading. You figure it out.
Opening scene: Eighteen-year-old Lucinda Northcott has been caught in a compromising position and her father informs her that he’s arranged for her to marry. Lucinda is shocked to hear that her proposed husband isn’t Malcolm, the man who compromised her. Malcolm is the heir to an earldom and his father won’t allow him to marry Lucinda. Instead he’s offered his younger son and Lucinda’s father has agreed. She’ll marry Harry Devering and be glad that her behavior won’t further shame the Northcott name.
Flash forward eleven years and Lucinda is a widow (though thankfully not still a virgin). Harry has died of a sudden heart attack while in the bed of his mistress and Lucinda is deeply in debt. Malcolm, who’s still lusting after Lucinda, has refused to pay Harry’s debts. Lucinda is forced to sell her home and take a position as companion/social tutor to the American granddaughter of the Duke of Raynewood. Still deeply in debt, Lucinda’s only hope is to find a second husband while she’s helping to launch Meg’s first season in London. The fly in the ointment is Meg’s brother Garrett (grandson and heir to the Duke), who wants nothing more then to get Lucinda into bed and get Meg out of England and back to Boston (in that order).
Separately Lucinda and Garrett are very appealing characters. She’s strong enough to have survived, without bitterness, the horrible marriage her father arranged for her. And she plays no blame game; instead she just gets on with what must be done to continue to survive. Garrett is her equal in strength and determination and has a nice sense of humor to boot. His stubbornness in accepting his grandfather’s wishes wears a bit thin by book’s end, but it also works to define his character. Just about everything works with these two as long as they’re not on the same page. I did like these characters separately and by about two-thirds of the way through, I was also liking them when they were on the same page. Prior to that most of their interactions made my teeth clench. He insists on getting her into bed even though she makes it very clear she doesn’t think sleeping with him would be in her best interest. It makes him a bit of a jerk, and she’s not much better. Her “Nos” are never just that. Here’s a sample:
“Desire roared forth like a beast released from a cage, and drowned the small voice of reason that was trying to make itself heard over the clamorous demands of her body. She should protest. She would protest. In a minute.”
This during the first of not one but two late night accidental meetings in the library. You’re probably wondering about that two-thirds point. I can name the page when this book turned around and completely had me: 247, if you’re interested. This was the defining moment:
“It does,” she insisted. “What would you think of a man who wanted nothing from Meg but an affair?”
His face darkened. “I would kill the bastard. My sister is worth more than that.”
“And I’m not?”
Though I enjoyed the turnaround, I kept wondering why the author didn’t respect her characters enough to write this conversation 150 pages sooner. Particularly given that this roadblock to the relationship wasn’t even necessary. There were plenty of others that more realistically fit with who these people were. This review has felt a bit like therapy. I’ve been able to explain to you and myself, how I could read voraciously while gritting my teeth in reaction to this book. I liked these people and wanted to see how they would get to the HEA even when I had to grit my teeth to do it. Whether you want to have a similar experience is up to you.