» The Pretenders
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by Joan Wolf
iPublish.com (March 2001)
mbr lrf azw lit
First my whinge -
When I saw an April 2014 date I was so excited to see what seemed to be a new Regency release by Joan Wolf. No such luck. It is instead just a new cover. When I checked, I even had a previous Kindle version in my Amazon archive, with a line-drawing, more old fashioned cover.
Fortunately, even before checking my archive I had browsed the blurb, so remembered I had read the book previously. Fortunately, because I would have been totally irritated if I had bought it again.
Now the positives -
Having had that moan, I can report that I have subsequently most happily re-read this title. I loved this book on first reading and am even more impressed with it second time around.
Another reviewer complained about the hero and found him "whiney". Not so, in my view. First off, this man had serious reasons for the grief and guilt that burdened him. I found him to be sensitive, tormented and charming; blindingly handsome, but impatient about it; a thoughtful, talented, amusing and even self-deprecating lover; strongly protective and loyal; sweetly dependent on the h; courageous when necessary, even though he is misguidedly macho about matters like fisticuffs. His immediate connection with his baby daughter makes him very endearing.
The h is provided to the reader with a more critical eye, because the narrative is first person, a technique that is hard to pull off, but well-mastered by Wolf. She is impressive and her growth as a character is compelling. Very importantly, even though the H is gorgeous, he doesn't save her. She does that herself.
A further reviewer suggests that the tale lacks tension. Again, I disagree. The story is packed with it, culminating in a well-written scene where the h is trapped in a cave, trying to stay strong, planning her own rescue, fighting claustrophobia, rising seas and her fear of the villain awaiting her outside.
Furthermore, this story tackles the plight of many women of that period who were abused by men who employed them (or other men in their households) and escaped punishment, or even just recrimination - and also women who were swindled by family members after a spouse's death. And Wolf does all this so very well.
I do so wish that Wolf would return to Regencies. I don't read the era of her recent works and haven't tried them. I miss her writing. She is a loss to Regencies. Surely she has another few more in her?
When lifelong friends and neighbors, Reeve (aka known as George Adolphus Lambeth, Earl of Cambridge, Baron Reeve or Ormsby and Baron Thornton of Ware) and Deborah (Deb) Woodly decide to pretend to married so Reeve can receive his inheritance early, they never expect to fall in love.
Although Deb comes from genteel stock, she and her mother survive on a meager income due to having been cast off by family after her father passed. Deborah has anger issues because her half brother, Richard, apparently a wealthy man has never bothered to check up on her and Mrs. Woodly even though he's now a grown man and head of the Woodly family.
Deborah's world has been somewhat limited to her friendship with Reeve, the families in the local parish and Reeve's stable of prime horse flesh which she apparently has carte blanche to ride. Reeve is a very unhappy young man, with a less-than-circumspect reputation and a love of gambling. His parents passed away before he became of age and left him with Lord Bradford as guardian until Reeve reaches the age of 26 or becomes married.
After Reeve loses heavily in the Newmarket races, he asks Deborah to become engaged to him in order to fool Lord Bradford into giving him his inheritance early. Although Deborah is dismayed at the whole idea, she eventually decides she will cooperate in the "pretend" engagement. Her mother is dialed in, doesn't actually agree, but she's crazy over Reeve also. As the reader, I'm thinking that I wouldn't care to back Reeve in his scheming, since he just lost 60,000 pounds on a horse race. So, this storyline is a bit unusual to say the least.
Eventually, everyone winds up at Lord Bradford's home at a house party where we begin to learn some troublesome things about the family members. Reeve has some sorrow in his past that contribute to his wayward ways, Lord Bradford and Deb's mama soon show all the signs of falling into love, Deb's half-brother Richard shows up unexpectedly and apparently, there's way more to the story about how and why he neglected Deb and Mrs. Woodly. Then, there's Richard, Lord Bradford's eldest son, who absolutely hates Reeve and soon becomes a danger to everyone's happiness.
In this environment, Reeve begins to see his childhood friend in a totally different light and Deb finds out she loves Reeve. They have a very sweet and genuine love relationship with danger and family issues in the background. By no means a perfect storyline - there were some issues relative to the stability of some of the primary characters. Still, I enjoyed reading this book.
I love regency romances! I've read several of this author's books and liked them, even loved one or two. This book had a mildly intriguing premise - childhood friends grow up, pretend to become engaged, then fall in love. The childhood friend falling in love is a common storyline for this author. The heroine, Miss Deborah Lynly, was likable - pretty, smart, level-headed, and loyal. The hero, Reeve, Lord Cambridge, was harder to warm up to. Although handsome and charming, he was immature and unreliable for almost all of the book. They had mild chemistry. Their storyline was entertaining and unpredictable. The author's writing style was initially bland and ultimately compelling, as usual. Overall, a bland romance but a good story.
A delighful Regency romance. Deborah Woodly and her mother were forced to live in a cottage barely surviving after her father's death. Her mother had been a governess to her future husband's son. She was not even allowed to call herself a lady after his death due to his family.Deborah had always been friends with Reeve Earl of Cambridge.He needed money as he had bet unwisely on a horse race and lost. His proper straight laced Uncle would not let him get his inheritance 2 years early. He would give him the money only if he married..Reeve talked Deb into a fake engagement.This story is told in the first person but author did it well. Deb and Reeve both changed during the story there was a villian in the story also. A family member also came back into their live's and things were not as Deb thought. I think you will enjoy reading to see if the forced marriage became love instead of an arrangement.
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