Not Quite a Gentleman
A decent hero falling for a spoiled, self-centered heroine is always a stretch for me when reading romance, but a premise I can accept if the heroine is allowed to mature and become more gracious within the course of the story. But if that character growth is missing for the majority of the book, I find that I don’t care all that much what happens to the heroine…or the hero who is foolish enough to care for her.
Although Dr. Nathan Oliver is the younger son of an earl, he chooses to live a simple life in a remote village far from his ancestral home in Cornwall. Forced to return home for a period of time, he brings with him his menagerie of animals, including a pig, goat, cow, hens, and ducks for the nonjudgmental companionship they provide. Nathan once proudly served the Crown as an undercover agent until three years ago when his final mission ended with both his brother and a close friend being shot and Nathan surrounded by allegations of theft. Refusing any attempt to clear his name, Nathan has exiled himself after that disastrous mission in an effort to find peace and bury the tortuous memory of his failure.
Lady Victoria Wexhall is a particularly shallow and self-absorbed creature. Coerced to forego the joys of London society just when the Little Season is about to begin, Victoria can’t understand why her father has chosen to send her to Cornwall at this crucial time in her life. Not only is she leaving behind the comfort and glamour of Town and civilization in general, but her status as a wealthy heiress is about to pay off. Two earls are vying for her hand in marriage and she will finally have one of her primary requirements for happiness in her life – a titled husband.
Purely for the chance to clear his name, Nathan is requested by her father to meet Victoria in Cornwall since an encoded letter containing classified information about his botched mission is hidden in her luggage. However, one of the stipulations of this offer of assistance is that Nathan must guard Victoria personally while she is in Cornwall to assure her safety. Why a father would subject his daughter to such danger for the sake of a mission is beyond my frame of reference but, unfortunately, only the first in a number of improbable scenarios the reader must endure.
On her way to Cornwall, Victoria decides a well-deserved dose of revenge for Nathan is the best way to occupy her mind and time while away from home. It seems that several years earlier she had enthusiastically shared a passionate kiss with Nathan after only a few moments of acquaintance. He stopped the kiss before things went too far and then grievously affronted her by never making contact with her afterwards. Victoria is now determined to lure him, kiss him just as callously, and then abruptly leave him with only memories and marry one of her earls. Regrettably, we must live with this thread of immature thinking for much of the book.
As Victoria settles in Cornwall, it appears there are yet more qualified husband prospects for her consideration. Although the two newest candidates live too far from civilization for her tastes, they both possess significant titles. So let’s see – Victoria has two earls competing for her hand in London and now has another earl and future earl showing interest in Cornwall. Could a girl seeking the title of countess ever be happier? Of course, as the younger brother of Viscount Sutton, Nathan, doesn’t stand a chance since he does not possess a title and lives in a mere cottage earning a modest living.
To say that Victoria’s character is irritating is an understatement. I kept hoping she would experience some sort of epiphany and recognize her shallow behavior, but, alas, it remained a case of too little too late. In addition to her obsession for a title, she refuses to seriously consider living away from Town and its social whirl. Although she eventually lowers her standards enough to become involved with Nathan, she will not give her heart to a man so lacking the all-important qualities she seeks in a husband.
It was Nathan’s character and his droll sense of humor that kept this review from falling below the C range. Even so, though, I considered his substitution of farm animals for friends and family complete silliness and his inability to keep Victoria uninvolved in his mission plainly out of character. This lack of consistent character development, overused plot devices, and the fact that I am tired of nineteenth century English super spies ultimately proved Not Quite a Gentleman to be a disappointing read.