Once a Gentleman
Once A Gentleman is third in a series of historical romances written by Candice Hern and set in England in the early 1800s. The focus of this installment is Nic (brother of Edwina from Once A Scoundrel) and his relationship with coworker, Pru. There is no edge-of-your-seat suspense, and we do have to wait a bit for any signs of attraction or passion, yet the book is still a charming read with sweet characters and a heroine that you can’t help but cheer for.
Prudence Armitage grew up in a huge family, both in number and physicality. Many of her relatives are loud, obnoxious at times and to make matters worse, they are Tories. Pru is the complete opposite of her family; she is tiny in stature, quiet, often ignored and a Republican. The one place where she truly feels in control and worthwhile is at work – the offices of the The Ladies’ Fashionable Cabinet magazine. It is a place where she feels needed, having never felt so at home where she is often belittled. But the office provides a second benefit too, for it is the place where she can secretly observe the only man she has ever loved, Nicholas Parrish.
Nic has always been fond of Prudence. She is a bit shy and quiet, but a nice girl all around. But he never once thought of her as anything other than a friend. She couldn’t be any more opposite than what he wants in a woman. She is small and nondescript, quiet and antisocial, while Nic is popular, good-looking and charming. Yet, what Nic doesn’t know is that there is more to Pru than he realizes. He should have taken her home that night when she was working late at the office downstairs from his living quarters. But he didn’t, and he and Prudence are now to suffer for it.
When Prudence falls asleep at his home, her family shows up on his doorstep demanding that he marry her in order to save her reputation. There is an immediate sense of relief when Pru refuses. But that relief is short lived when he finds out that Pru comes from a family of aristocrats. So the two are basically forced into marriage for Pru’s sake and for Nic’s but mostly for Pru’s family. Not only was Pru born into a titled family of Tories, but she is also a bit of an heiress, everything that Nic despises in a person. But good guy that he is, Nic does not take his anger out on Pru. While definitely not a love match, there are worse things than marrying a friend.
The only problem Pru has with being married to Nic is that she fears he will never truly love her. Being married to Nic is a dream come true and she has no bigger desire than to finally Become a Woman. Yet, Nic, it seems, has no desire to bed her. She does everything in her power to let Nic know that she is ready to be intimate yet he fails to take the hint. But with a little help from her friends Pru just may bring her dowdy self into the limelight and have the marriage she always wanted and deserves. And Nic may just find true love if he can see past the quiet, mousy woman that he married.
It is during the obligatory family functions that Nic must attend with Pru that he starts to look at the woman he has married in a totally new light. No longer does he see her as a shy, little, nondescript mouse, but as a strong, opinionated, caring woman who is actually quite beautiful when she is not hiding behind others. Even though Nic sees Pru differently, he wonders how she views him – as friend, or something more.
Nic is likable in that he’s a stand-up guy who doesn’t blame Pru in the least, but at the same time he’s somewhat self-involved and shallow. Pru gives everything she has to the man, yet he only thinks about himself. Pru is a thoroughly sympathetic and likable character, completely misunderstood by society and her family, but at the same time she’s something of a doormat. That this is third in a series of books is helpful rather than being a hindrance; characters many of us have come to adore from the previous books provide support to Pru and Nic.
There are small misunderstandings in the book, but nothing to overwhelm the story or drag out the plot. The lack of a a suspense subplot is a nice change of pace, as is the lack of any horrible misfortune to separate our lovers, but at the same time, the lead characters are somewhat lacking in the charisma to totally pull off the story on their own. Still, readers will root for poor, overlooked Pru to get the man of her dreams and for Nic to realize the treasure he’s found. Once a Gentleman provides a charming story with likable characters who try and overcome their everyday problems to conclude with a sweet ending.