All a Woman Wants
Instead of All a Woman Wants, this book would have better been titled All a Woman Needs is a Man to Take Over and Make Everything Better. That title more accurately reflects what the book was truly about.
Miss Beatrice Cavendish is in a bind. She has spent all twenty-eight years of her life doing and learning precisely nothing, and now her father has passed away leaving her with a mismanaged estate. She, of course, knows zilch about managing an estate (or anything else for that matter) and so spends all her time dithering and worrying about how she is to keep paying the many servants who rely on her and whom she considers a kind of family.
Lachlan “Mac” MacTavish is also in a difficult situation. An American shipper, he has just completed some business in London. He is looking forward to visiting with his sister who lives there, but when he goes to see her, he is told that she died months ago after giving birth to her second child. Mac also learns that her husband has gone on a permanent bender, and the servants who care for both children have been abusing and neglecting them. In rage, he takes the children from the house and goes off to find a nanny.
Mac’s search takes him to the village outside of Beatrice’s estate. And when he knocks on her door to ask directions, she tells him that the nanny he is looking for has died. He is very upset. He has no other place to keep his rather naughty niece and nephew while he waits for his ship to be ready and no other leads on nannies. Beatrice proposes that he stay on as a boarder in exchange for teaching her how to run the estate. Mac accepts because he has no other options available. Very soon Beatrice is involved with both Mac and the children, and he is up to his ears in her estate problems.
The first problem I had with this book is that the set up for the relationship was rather preposterous. My understanding is that sheltered and very proper Victorian ladies did not take in total strangers and employ them in a business capacity. And even if they did, Mac is a sea-based businessman and not a land steward. Then there’s the fact that any farming knowledge he would have would be limited to conditions in Viriginia, which are quite different from those in the English countryside. While this wouldn’t preclude success since Mac is a hero, after all, it seemed a flimsy set up all around.
I also had a problem with the heroine, Beatrice. She was a bit of a nitwit, which surprised me since the author has spoken out about TSTL heroines before. After almost three decades of living in the country, she absorbed nothing of the practicalities of living there. She had not the slightest idea of how to solve her own problems. I mean, here she is, up to her neck in bills, with a stable full of horses and a kennel full of hounds, and she never considers selling them until it’s suggested to her. Victorian Lady or not, Beatrice is almost 30 and seems have no common sense whatsoever. Additionally, she goes around demanding that Mac teach her how to run her estate and not say things to her like, “You shouldn’t worry your pretty little head about that.” But despite her protests she allows him to make all the necessary decisions and implement them with very little input from her. Beatrice says over and over that she wants to be independent, but what she really seems to want is for Mac to solve all of her short term problems so that she can “learn” the estate business later at her leisure.
Finally, I can’t say I ever really connected with any of the characters. They weren’t bad, they weren’t excessively annoying, they just didn’t grab me. Beatrice is a little (okay – a lot) dim, but sweet. Mac glowers and shouts a lot, at least when he’s not thinking about what an appealing handful Bea is. The two children and Beatrice’s aunt are essentially unfleshed plot devices. Even the children’s drunken father, the villain of the book, isn’t very interesting.
All a Woman Wants is a book that needs something. A more plausible premise, perhaps, and a smarter heroine definitely. It is not a terrible book, but it failed to keep my interest. And as such, I cannot really recommend it.