What a Woman Needs
With What a Woman Needs, Zebra Debut brings out yet another promising new author. Caroline Linden’s Regency-set historical features unusual characters and a story that will have readers flying through the pages. There are a few rough spots that may remind one that this is a debut novel, but these are certainly outweighed by the many enjoyable parts of the story.
The book opens as Stuart Drake, a disgraced peer close to being penniless, prepares to propose to a young heiress. He is practical about the fact that he must marry for money and, even though he has misgivings about doing so, he has found himself the proper heiress. His only obstacle is the girl’s formidable guardian, Charlotte Griffolino.
After their initial meeting, Charlotte concludes that the gossip regarding Stuart’s scandalous treatment of women must have some truth to it. She decides that an admitted fortune hunter and an apparent cad would most certainly not be a suitable match for her ward. However, when disaster strikes, she finds herself having to rely on Stuart and learns that he is not entirely as he seems.
Charlotte and Stuart are both unusual, imperfect characters and they work well together in this story. Both are in their thirties, both are intelligent and experienced, and their interactions are built on clever conversation and sizzling chemistry in a manner than sometimes reminded me of authors such as Liz Carlyle. The hero and heroine are both strong characters with rather checkered pasts, yet each also has a strong sense of honor. They are flawed and still quite likable.
Some of the secondary characters, particularly Charlotte’s companion Lucia, are grating at times and, rather than providing added interest to the story, some of the minor characters detracted a bit. The pacing also hit a few rough spots, including a denouement that seemed to develop rapidly out of nowhere, but these problems did not keep me from enjoying the romance. Charlotte and Stuart dominate the tale, and for me they carried it over the rougher patches.
While not perfect, Linden’s debut is certainly readable. Anyone who bemoans the lack of couples over thirty or the lack of experienced heroines in historicals may want to give this novel a try. The main couple is unusual and likable, and I truly enjoyed their story.