Does the editorial department talk to the art department anymore? Check out the cover of Kristina Cook’s new book Undressed. There’s a pretty slip dress on a bright yellow cover. To me this screams This Book Is Chick Lit. However, the book is an historical romance – a pretty good historical romance, but a casual browser who thinks she’s buying Chick Lit is going to be upset.
Colin Rosemoor, son of the Viscount Rosemoor, has a reputation as a wild young rake. And so he is. Society may tut behind their fans, but there’s nothing wrong with a young man sowing some wild oats and Colin has gotten a pass for his wild ways. However, there are a few things that are beyond the pale and one of them is cheating at cards. One evening, the Duke of Glastonbury calls him out for cheating and finds a card in his pocket. Colin is certain the card was placed by his rival, Lord Thomas Sinclair, but he has no proof, so despite all his protestations of innocence, he is kicked out of White’s.Brenna Maclachlan grew up in the Scottish Highlands the only child of Donald and Celie Maclachlan. Upon her parent’s death she became The Maclachlan of Glenbroch, and thought to live her life on her beloved estate, but when an attorney comes to visit, Brenna finds out that she is not who she thinks she is. Brenna is actually Margaret, the daughter of Lord and Lady Danville. Since they could not have children, the Maclachlans kidnapped Brenna as a baby. They thought she was her twin brother Hugh, but kept her and raised her with love and affection. She goes to London to meet her parents and they find themselves with a forthright Scottish daughter whom they plan to “civilize”. Brenna feels like a fish out of water. She is not very comfortable with her parents and does not get along at all with twin brother. Most of the ton treat her as some exotic creature, but she does make one good friend, Jane Rosemoor, who is sensible and kind and does not look on Brenna as odd because she is interested in astronomy. Through Jane Brenna meets Colin who, like his sister, treats Brenna as an intelligent woman. Brenna is a bit off-put by Colin’s wildness and can’t understand why he spends so much time with Lucy, Lady Mandeville, but she is attracted to him and he to her. Brenna’s parents inform her that they have arranged a marriage for her with a most suitable man – Lord Thomas Sinclair. She is horrified and even more so when she overhears Lord Thomas and her brother talking about her and other women in a very crude manner. Brenna also overhears them tell how they framed Colin for cheating. When she goes to tell Colin, they are discovered in a very compromising position and Colin offers marriage. Colin and Brenna are a most likable pair. Brenna is strong and intelligent and very out of place in London Society. When you have been the Maclachlan, have run an estate and spent your days solving tenant’s problems, it’s kind of hard to get all worked up over what shade of blue to choose for a walking dress. Colin is a troubled hero who at first seems to be headed for disaster. He drinks, he gambles, and he spends his life as a wastel. But as we get to know him, we see he has his share of virtues as well as vices. Colin is loyal to his family, especially his mother and sister. He has a troubled relationship with his father, a wastrel without a conscious. Colin desperately wants to do the right thing, and one point when Brenna accuses him of wanting to take a mistress, he bursts out in a passionate denial, swearing that when he makes a promise he will remain faithful! Colin is weak, he knows it, and he is drawn to Brenna for her strength of character. It was a joy seeing him conquer his demons. The plot of Undressed is a tad overstuffed with coincidences, especially toward the end when people show up out of the woodwork to offer explanations and clear up misunderstandings. When Brenna and Colin are estranged, the author throws in a very convenient disaster, which sets up a wonderful Oscar-worthy grovel. Even though it was far from perfect, I enjoyed Undressed. As I said, Brenna and Colin were great pair of lovers and were the best thing in the book. The secondary characters were well portrayed and I hope we see Colin’s sister Jane in a future book. The villains were eminently hiss worthy, and if the plot was a tad rich, I’m not going to complain too much. However, someone needs to show the art department what ladies wore back in the Regency.