Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: The Secrets of Sir Richard Kentworthy

Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can't be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family's infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She's the type of girl you don't notice until the second—or third—look, but there's something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she's the one.

Iris Smythe–Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can't quite believe it's all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can't help thinking that he's hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.

I have, from the very first book in the Smythe-Smith actually from the very first Bridgerton Saga novel I read (of which this is a companion series to that Saga, the events often tangling with those 8 novels in many ways) loved the idea of the Smythe-Smith family.  My own family being somewhat large and sprawling I can very well understand how it feels to be labelled "One of many" or to be generalized as "Oh one of those kids".  

Its sometimes a blessing - how often do casual acquaintances remember individual kids they see maybe once a year?  You'd be surprised what you can get away with saying and then the next year they don't remember it was you.  And then its sometimes a curse - when you don't really "excel" at anything, your accomplishments tend to get lumped in or overshadowed by others easily.  This is rather the problem I've had with the last book (The Sum Of All His Kisses), for the life of me until I re-read my review I had forgotten what it was about.  Math?  Kissing = Math?  Or something? (Its um not quite about that)

So I had HOPES for this book.  Big HOPES.  Dramatic historical romance heroine HOPES (of which there's always italics and breathy sighs and emphasis given).  And in case you missed it the first time HIGH HIGH HOPES.

Some of those hopes were fulfilled.  Many of them in ways that angered me so very very much.

Look THE DUKE AND I is my very favorite Bridgerton novel and THE DEVIL IN WINTER by Lisa Kleypas is one of my very favorite historical romances of all time, so I'm used to grumpy, grouchy, passionate heroes who marry the heroines for their convenient reasons. I'm used to them compromising said lady to get it done (though in DEVIL that isn't quite the way it happens).  Hell I'm even used to the Heel Turns their personalities often take as they realize/deny their love for said heroine.

So trust me when I say I never wanted to murder a hero more then I did when Richard decided to contend for the Jackass Hero of the Year award.  

For those familiar with THE DUKE AND I you may see shades of that occurring here.  Iris, like Daphne, believes her marriage--despite starting as a confusing mix of quickness and deceit--could be something more.  She sees/feels something in Richard that makes her think there is more then just the surface.  But Iris, like Daphne, doesn't understand the WHOLE truth because Richard (like Simon) had what he felt was a very good reason to treat his awfully.

Here's the thing, Simon did what he did because he had a certain level of proof that made what he wanted to avoid logical (given his emotional issues tied up with it).  And he didn't set out to marry Daphne--that happened because of circumstance and he told her, point blank, what he wanted to avoid (she just chose to ignore it) even if he didn't tell her the why of it.  Richard does no such thing.  He courts, compromises and then marries, Iris under the assumption of "love" and "passion".  He acts, and says, things of a charming persuasive and even sexual nature to Iris during the day and then at night won't even LOOK at her.

Iris meanwhile has spent much of her life in the shadows of her other relatives, not a stunning beauty nor extroverted person by nature Iris believed what many women who read romances dream of happening--gorgeous, attractive, highly wanted Richard saw in her something more then what was on the surface.  He understood her, understood how to help her and show her new experiences.  Imagine how it would feel if night after night, week after week, the man you thought saw your real self rejected you.  Not because of anything you did, but you'd believe it was something you did because what else could it be?  

And when he finally deigns to tell you WHY, why he manipulated you and forced your hand and played with your emotions the way he did, you can't do anything about it.  

More than anything else I wanted Iris to leave Richard and never look back.  I wanted her to show him what happens when you manipulate and scheme and deliberately ruin another's life for what you believe to be "good reasons".  If not for the fact this was a romance he didn't plan to fall in love with Iris, so what was his plan?  to continually treat her shabbily, never telling her anything and expecting her to be okay with it?  He was so worried about one scandal and one person's feelings that he never stopped to think he was doing something JUST AS BAD.  

Oh he plead remorse and seemed unhappy and regretful, but if not for the romance deus ex machina at the end nothing would have changed.

And that pisses me off like you have no idea.  

In the end this got 2 stars because Iris, and her family, are as always endearing and entertaining.  And really that only deserves half a star, but I can't do 1.5 stars...