So does this cover scream Titanic to you like it did me? It got my attention immediately, and I wanted to check out what this author was about. Disclaimer: This story is actually much more “Beauty and the Beast” than Titanic.
THE PLOT: Poor innocent Anna, the daughter of a country doctor, has been the object of a terrible violation. Her father’s apprentice, Jasper Rawlins, spied on her personal moments and made all sorts of drawings of her unclothed. Then he sold them to the ribald Marquess of Henshaw, claiming that the subject posed willingly. The nobleman doesn’t care…he’s showing the pictures of “The Beautiful One” far and wide in Society, promising to release the mysterious model’s at a fabulous party. He even wants Anna to pose for a risqué portrait with him to be unveiled at the party. Once Anna’s identity is revealed, she’ll be completely ruined. Unprotected, with no alternatives, Anna goes into hiding as a seamstress at a girl’s school. Her plans to hide to awry when the school expels one of its students and sends Anna as the girl’s chaperone to escort her to her uncle’s estate.
Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, lost his beloved wife in a riding accident and has been behaving like a hermit in his period of deep mourning. He is not amused when his niece, Lizzie, is delivered from her school, hoping to live with him. With no desire to return to society and no interest in sponsoring his niece’s debut, he tells Lizzie’s chaperone he’ll be finding another school for her. Anna sees the girl’s loneliness (she’s lost her parents, too) and fights for her to stay with Will. Will treats Anna poorly until they start to bond, and a gentle, tentative romance begins. But will their relationship survive the revelation of “The Beautiful One?”
MY TWO CENTS: The style of this book reminded me very much of Grace Burrowes. It was quiet and slow-building with very little (if any) humor and no spying, danger, or other action. For me, this means it got a little long in the middle while Will and Anna were building their romance, but Anna wasn’t confiding her troubles to him. If Anna had just told him what was happening, Will probably would have taken care of it much earlier. As it is, the anticipation (and frustration) of Rawlins, Henshaw, and “The Beautiful One” builds until the last minute, and then is over very quickly. Personally, I would have enjoyed faster pacing throughout.
Having said that, it’s a sweet story with a catalyst I hadn’t heard before, although the general premise is familiar. Will is very “beastly” indeed at first, and the arrival of Anna, Lizzie, and then Will’s brother and stepmother bring light and life back into his home. Gradually he comes back to life, and learns a few things about love in the process. I really like Will. Of course, it’s hard to dislike a landowner who buries his grief in crafting better homes for his tenants, no matter how cranky and miserable he is otherwise.
BOTTOM LINE: Perfect for fans of Grace Burrowes, but not for readers who want a lot of humor or action and danger in their romance. I felt that it got a little slow by the middle, and then wrapped up too quickly.
TEACUP RATING: Three-and-a-half out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available June 2, 2015, in paperback and eformats.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.