Summary: Philip Hawksbury, the Earl of Rothermere, obeying his father’s dying wish, hies himself to Scotland to offer for one of the daughters of Alexander Kilbracken, the Earl of Ruthven.
Frances Kilbracken, informed of the earl’s arrival and his mission, disguises herself as a bespectacled dowd so she won’t be the one selected by the young earl. But choose her he does, and for all the wrong reasons.
The newly married couple return to England, together but not at all happy. Philip dumps Frances at Desborough Hall, his ancestral estate, and heads back to his old life in London.
When the earl returns to his home, driven by guilt, he discovers the woman he married has grossly deceived him. What follows is a battle of the sexes that will have you chuckling, maybe even howling with laughter…
I didn’t like this book at all, most of which can be explained by two words. Consent issues. Which start the third night of their marriage. Hawk doesn’t want to sleep with Frances because he finds her to be ugly, so it’s very much a case of ‘Lie back and think of
Kilbracken England becoming pregnant with a son so we I can stop with this distasteful scene and go back to London to bang my mistress.’ And lie back she does. All she has to do is open her legs for him. Seriously. There’s no question whether Frances wants to have sex or not. I get that in this time – the book’s set in 1810 – it wouldn’t count as rape, given they’re married and all, but it is now. I don’t want rape in my romance-novels. This is not a good way to convince me that Hawk is actually a good guy. We spend so much time in his head while he’s thinking about how he doesn’t want to Frances (he only chose her because her disguise made him think she would be tractable and keep out of his way while he went back to London to bang his mistress).
His mistress who is the most sympathetic character in the whole book, I might add. She convinces Hawk to treat his wife as a proper woman, and make sure she derives satisfaction from this whole sex-business. Hawk at first doesn’t like the idea, since that thing is just not done with one’s wife, the gentle-bred things that they are. But in the end he does listen, goes back, finds out that Frances is a) rather hot, and b) has taken over the running of Desborough. Something that Hawk didn’t want to do himself, despite being its lord. Does he actually ask her about the whole sex-thing, and see what she wants? Does he buggery. He uses his annoyance over finding out he’s been deceived to justify his new treatment of her, namely still having sex with her without her wanting it but trying to make her enjoy it despite herself. This is also not a good way to make me think Hawk is a good man. I was half-hoping Hawk would die so Frances would be free(ish).
Frances does come to enjoy the sex, not that she gets much of a say in it.
At the end of the book, Amalia (the mistress) and Frances do beat up Hawk, which was a minor good point in a terrible book.
The whole thing pissed me off terribly. I don’t want rape in my romance-novels.