Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Blame It on Bath by Caroline Linden (4 stars, historical)




Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
Although it has been fun making my way through Butler's "The Mad Hatterlys" series over the last few weeks, it was time for a change of pace. So it was with great eagerness that I went to check out the recent historical romance releases I had been missing out on. Unfortunately, being very choosy when it comes to storylines and characters, most of the new releases held little appeal for me. The one novel that did catch my eye was Caroline Linden's Blame It on Bath. It is the second installment of "The Truth About the Duke" series, and I remembered liking the first book in the series (One Night in London). Blame It on Bath turned out to be a somewhat above average marriage of convenience novel, with several elements holding back an otherwise well written read.

The heroine is a 30 year old heiress and widower. She does not initially come across as terribly attractive in looks or personality, although that is largely a result of her circumstances. She grew up with a mother that frequently put her down emotionally, as well as taught her to dress in way that didn't put her to advantage. The heroine's mother set up her first marriage to a viscount nearly twice her age, who was in need of money. Needless to say, it wasn't a love match. I'm still not completely clear on why the heroine asked the hero to marry her. For one thing, both the heir of the heroine's late husband and the heroine's mother were pressuring the heroine to marry the heir. The heir wanted to marry the heroine for her money, but he's not a particularly good guy and she doesn't particularly want to marry him. It wasn't explicitly stated, but from what I understood the heroine seemed to  have a hard time disobeying her mother in addition to being scared of the heir. The other aspect was that she has had an infatuation for hero since they met as children, although she recognizes it as not being real love. As any rate, when she realizes that the hero will likely need a marriage to a  rich woman she proposes marriage to him with the explanation that, that way, she won't have to marry the heir. If you've read the first book in the series, you'll know that the hero is third son of a duke. The "mystery" of the series is centered around the fact that the sons find out they might technically have been bastards (the duke was secretly married far before he married their mother), in addition to a blackmailer being involved with the situation. The hero is a twenty-eight year old man who has become a captain in the army. Being a third son, in addition to all of the sons possibly being bastards, means that he doesn't have access to funds necessary to investigate the blackmailer and would currently seem ineligible to most of the ton's heiresses. He is tempted by the heroine's offer of a marriage of convenience in exchange for her money, and agrees after dragging it out for the first 20% of the book. He treats the heroine well for the most part, and away from the oppressive environment of her mother, her former husband, and the heir she is slowly able to open up. The story moves along with the hero investigating the blackmailer during the day, and having passionate love scenes with his wife at night. As the relationship progresses, the heroine wishes that the hero would return her love and is dismayed by his dedication to the mystery, going as far as starting an innocuous flirtation to find out more information. Much of the romance conflict stems from the hero's inability to understand how his wife is feeling at times, effectively making his character seem a bit dense. Eventually feelings get fully realized and everyone goes home happy.

So here's my dilemma. In a number of ways, Blame It on Bath was a good book. It was a well-written, fairly engaging read that showed a marriage of convenience without becoming too angsty. Even the ending was fairly satisfying. At the same time, though: the first fifth of the book was a bit boring, I didn't fully accept the premise of why the hero and heroine got together, the hero comes across as unintelligent and possibly a bit of a jerk at times, and there were enough love scenes that I began to feel that they detracted from the story. So was it better than your average marriage of convenience romance? Yes. Much better than your average marriage of convenience romance? I'm not so sure. I'm also undecided if it's a novel that I want to reread in the future.

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