A Wild Pursuit
I’ve read books that began well and went downhill, sometimes precipitously. I had just the opposite reaction as I read A Wild Pursuit. It began rather slowly (and nothing at all like the blurb on the back) and at first I thought I would not like it very much, but then it began to grow on me and by the time it ended, I was hooked. This is the first book I have read from Eloisa James, and I very much enjoyed her distinctive voice.
Arabella has several houseguests. One is her niece, Esme Rawlings who is widowed, and pregnant. Esme has a notorious reputation partially because of a big scandal involving her late husband, and her lover Sebastian, Marquess Bonnington. Now that she is widowed, she desperately wants respectability and has joined a sewing circle of virtuous ladies. Bonnington, whom the ton thought had decamped to the continent is still around in disguise and still loves Esme, but she is adamant – she wants to be a respectable woman.
Arabella has a couple of other guests too. Helene, Countess Godwin lives apart from her husband Rees. They married young, and were not compatible – he accused her of being frigid and now he lives with his opera singer mistress. The last guest is Arabella’s companion, young Lady Beatrix Lennox, who was the object of a major scandal during her debut. She was found in the arms of a gentleman and has been shunned as promiscuous. Bea says she doesn’t care and revels in her bad reputation.
Arabella’s lone male guest is Stephen Fairfax-Lacey, heir presumptive to a Duke and a respected member of Parliament. Arabella thinks that Stephen might make a nice husband for Esme or Bea since he is such a paragon of respectablity and anyway, he’s in his 40s and it’s time for him to settle down. If the marriage plans don’t work, Stephen might be the perfect man to be Helene’s lover and show her she isn’t a cold, frigid woman.
A Wild Pursuit juggles multiple storylines as Stephen finds himself interacting with all three women. His relationship with Helene never gets off the ground. She half-heartedly attempts to seduce him, but neither of them really want to go forward with it. Helene doesn’t want a lover and really wants to reconcile with her husband since they had loved each other once. Helene’s story will be told in a future book, His Wicked Ways.
Stephen’s relationship with Esme is not a romantic one either and they end as friends. Despite her protests that she wants respectability, Esme really wants Sebastian. Their relationship is marked by a deep sense of connection and they were meant to be together. We get glimpses of Esme’s past in which she was rejected by her mother and her husband. Sebastian has been the only one to love her totally and she finds she wants love more than respectability – and really who wouldn’t?
Stephen is left with Bea and at first they don’t get along at all. Bea delights in being outrageous, dressing in low cut gowns, boasting of her vast experience with men and flouting all conventions of polite Society. I thought she was rather like a Regency era Samantha a la Sex And the City. Bea referrs to Stephen as the Puritan and thinks he’s old. But Stephen sure can kiss and isn’t the Puritan she thinks he is. Eventually he turns the tables on her and asks her to woo him.
I’ll admit that I didn’t like Bea at all at the beginning of the book, and I only slightly warmed up to her by the time it ended. She struck me as too flippant and modern. Yes, Regency women did have affairs and were sometimes very scandalous but that type of behavior was only for married women who had already had an heir. Since Bea is unmarried and her family and Society have rejected her, her behavior seemed foolish in the extreme.
I also found some big problems with titles. Helene is sometimes addressed as Countess Godwin, which is all wrong, and then in the next sentence she would be referred to as Lady Godwin, which is correct. Stephen is the heir presumptive to a Duke and has a courtesy title, which he says he does not use. Only sons of peers who are heirs have courtesy titles, heirs who are cousins like Stephen do not have them.
Nomenclature problems aside, this is an unusual and distinctive romance. Eloisa James has her own unique voice and way of telling a story. I think I will have to make a trip to the bookstore and check out her backlist. I do get tired of interchangable romances and this one is certainly unique.