Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant (4 stars, historical)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
Cecilia Grant's A Gentleman Undone turned out to be solid romance, even if it didn't quite match up with my expectations upon reading some of its reviews. I liked that Grant dedicates a significant chunk of the book to forming a strong friendship between the protagonists, before bringing in the conflicts, passion, and angst. The hero and heroine were well-shaped with plenty of emotional baggage, and very quickly I found myself wanting them to get their HEA. It was a somewhat dark story, and I didn't always understand the characters' actions, but I found the novel to be a good read nonetheless.

The first half of the book proceeds like a Regency romance version of the movie 21. Both characters need money quickly, and - with the heroine's mathematical skill - they eventually figure out they can win against the house in gambling hells. The heroine doesn't seem to be overly bothered by her relationship with her protector, but at the same time there's no love lost between them and she knows he'll tire of her eventually. She wants to be an independent woman by then. She is tortured with survival's guilt, knowing that it was her scandal that led to her parents being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's never stated explicitly, but it seemed to me that she had a thorough disgust of her sexuality until she became intimate with the hero. It was her sexuality that led to her to her ruin (and - in her mind - her parent's death), so she punishes herself accordingly by finding work in a brothel and then later as a mistress. The heroine seems to despise herself at times for enjoying sex for the sake of sex, and fears that the hero will develop a similar aversion when she chooses rough intercourse. Then again, I'm no expert on women's sexuality... so what do I know? The hero seemed much more straightforward to me. Although he's also tortured, it's for a much more familiar reason - innate honor. He's been damaged by what he has seen in the war, particularly when he is unable to help a dying friend. He promised the friend to look out for his friend's family, and needs the money to make that happen. One thing that always bothered me is that the hero's brother offers him whatever he needs in terms of money. While I understand pride preventing the hero from accepting charity at first, I wondered why he didn't accept it later on when it became more important. For example, he could have offered the heroine an independent future - free of a protector - any time he wanted to.  At any rate, it's the hero's honor that demands the heroine to be treated as a lady from the first day he meets her, and later it's his honor that prevents him from bedding the heroine until well into the novel. The story comes to a turning point at a house party, when the characters are no longer able to restrain their passions and the heroine leaves her protector's control. From there, the money plot is moved firmly into the background so that the romantic and external conflicts can be tacked head on. Things get somewhat angsty, but the hurdles seemed authentic. The ending was rather upbeat, and on the whole I would say quite satisfactory.

On one hand, Cecilia Grant's A Gentleman Undone was not one of my favorite reads. I'm not a big fan of semi-dark plots and the characters didn't always make sense to me, so it's probably not even a novel I will reread in the future. However, it still gets top marks in the romance category. The book unveils a gradual relationship that overcomes the tortured emotions of two characters deserving of a HEA. Love conquers all once again, and it does so here in a rather meaningful and ultimately successful way.


  1. I was also thinking of 21 when I was reading the part with the cards.

    Like you, I also had some questions about their actions -- (they were cheating at cards! >_<) --

    Ah, so you don't like dark plots -- I had recommended Lydia Joyce in reply to your comment over at my blog. ^_^

    1. Hehe... yea, I saw that. Thanks for the recommendation, but I do tend to stay away from dark storylines. I like plots to be fun and happy ;).


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