September 1, 2013
Kate is a self confessed social climber. She wants to be much richer and more influential than she is. Being beautiful and female, she sees marriage to a titled man as the best way to get it. Nick wants to be richer and more influential than he is. Being male he sees his profession as a barrister and connections to titled men (to get a seat as MP) as the best way he can to achieve this. This book is romance but is really about how people strive towards power and the way that gender was such a defining way of deciding how you tried to achieve this at this time.
As you might imagine, the people who dislike heroines who try and do something and don't just fall over and open their legs to an alpha male, don't like Kate. Me, I think that smacks of double standards. I like all of Grant's heroines. I feel they make tough decisions within the highly gendered historical setting that they're in and Kate is no exception. Further, one of the things I like about historical romance is the explicit way that beauty, partnership and gender are dealt with. I think that often these things are left unexamined in contemporary fiction/romance whereas the historical setting gives enough distance for a more interesting social comment. Anyhow, that's my rant about it. On with talking about the book.
Nick, like so many others, has already wanted to propose to Kate. She deftly deflected him and since then, they have become friends. An influential Lord turns up to provide the central conflict of the book: Nick (by keeping from him certain facts) becomes his oratory mentor. Kate wants to marry him (and thinks she may be able to ensnare him before he knows about her and her family.) Nick is horrified that Kate would use this man to better her prospects, but is doing just that himself. He might also have a teeny bit of self interest where Kate is concerned. The central question of the book is how and how long is it going to take for both of them to realize that using people is not the best way to achieve their aspirations.
A book geek like me also appreciated the Austen references. Kate picks up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and there are lots of obvious parallels there (I loved the snooty titled aunt turn about). But there are references to Emma (a turn about on Miss Smith/Emma's relationship) and probably lots more that I missed. Grant does details so well, and I usually only catch a quarter of them on the first reading. That, imo, is the sign of a truly brilliant book. When you can go back and read it and find something new in it every time.
I enjoyed this book. I think that in many ways, this is Grant's best book yet. It speaks of problems, past and present, that people deal with in how to negotiate between what they want, what they think they want and what society will allow them to do. Grant seems to like mirrors - literal mirrors in A Lady Awakened, but metaphorical mirrors in her two subsequent books. Sometimes it take a while for us to realize that someone is the other half of ourselves - the mirror image - especially if we don't really know what we are. If that was a bit too philosophical for you, I do apologize. I am striving for a regular schedule of F/m kinky sexiness.
As for grade. Weeeellll, it's not femdom. But I did enjoy it. I liked Kate. I thoughts she was straight - the kind of woman I'd want as a friend and who would say, 'that sounds like fun' when I told her tied down my husband. I've recently understood that the portrayal of female agency is really important to me in a book and this ticks that box. Nick is okay. He starts has character arc, starting stuffy and realizing there is more to life than impressing people. There aren't any warnings for this book, except that this there is not all that much sex (I can't believe I'm actually warning you that there isn't constant sex....). I think it's a B+, but with a reservation that this is vanilla. Nice vanilla. You know, with the little black bits that show it's real, good quality vanilla. But it's still vanilla.
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