Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sample Reading #3: Her Husband's Harlot by Grace Callaway

This is a new feature on my blog called Sample Reading. This is where I will talk about book samples that I've gotten online. I'll read the sample and will answer the very important question:

Will I buy it?

This week, I'm considering Her Husband's Harlot by Grace Callaway. This is her debut novel and was a finalist in the 2010 RWA Golden Heart.



The Blurb:
Not Quite a Wife ...
After a disastrous wedding night, proper Lady Helena Harteford fears for the fate of her new marriage. Disguised as a doxy, she tracks her husband down at a bawdy house to reason with him ... and instead discovers the thrill of forbidden passion. An innocent ruse turns into a risky deception; how far will this once-wallflower go to win her husband’s love?

Unfit to be a Husband ...
Orphaned at an early age, Nicholas Morgan escapes his violent beginnings to become a successful merchant -- only to discover that he is the legitimate heir of the Marquess of Harteford. His transition to the ton is rocky and made rockier when he marries above him. Torn between guilt and lust, he tries to protect his sweet, innocent wife from the demons of his past. But can he safeguard her from his own raging desires?

Caught between Past and Present ...
When a dangerous nemesis rises from Nicholas’ past, husband and wife must work together in order to survive. From the drawing rooms to the stews of Regency London, they find themselves caught in a game of passion and seduction. Will true love prevail? Or is Helena destined to remain ... Her Husband’s Harlot?
- from Grace Callaway's website
I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: first 3 chapters of a 300+ page book

My impressions:
The first three chapters explain the situation: Helena is married to Nicholas but, after a "disastrous wedding night," Helena and Nicholas have lived very separate lives -- after discovering an invitation to a dubious event at The Nunnery, Helena decides to attend and try to win her husband back.

She finds him (and they witness a menage a trois) but he doesn't recognize her -- and Helena doesn't say anything to correct the situation and, instead, has sex with him.

The sample ends with Helena conferring with her friend (and co-conspirator) Marianne about what happened at The Nunnery. Even her friend is confused with Helena's reason for keeping her identity a secret.

"He did not know it was me," Helena said through stiff lips.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Last night, Harteford did not know it was me. It was dark, and I did not remove my mask or wig."

"But surely you spoke..."

"I spoke in French to disguise my voice."

"To disguise your voice... but why?" Marianne asked.

"Because... because..." Helena strove to explain the fever that had overcome her.

...

"He will never forgive me for deceiving him in such a fashion."

... "Things would have been rather simpler if you had confessed yourself then and there. Why did you not?"

Helena lowered her head. "I was afraid."
- loc 439 - 469

I felt her argument was a bit roundabout and, thus, the whole premise of the story to be shaky. I also thought Helena was unreal in her innocence/ignorance: who attends an event at a bawdy house (granted it is her first time to go), stumbles upon a lady and two gentlemen in a private room and thinks:

Likely she had intruded upon a friendly supper, or perhaps a card game suited to three players.
- loc 87

I felt she lacked agency and a clear sense of what she wanted -- and she was an odd mix of impulsive and inflexible (everything seems to shock her).

Nicholas is also problematic. In the three chapters, it is revealed how attracted he is to his wife and how he had fantasized about all the things he would do to her once they were married -- but, on their wedding night, without so much as a kiss or caress, he does a very clumsy thing and shocks (and hurts) her.

The one redeeming factor in this book is Marianne Draven, Helena's friend -- elegant and beautiful, she seems to know what she wants and is very confident and capable in a way Helena isn't.

Finally, I am not certain how the mystery/intrigue (mentioned in the blurb) will blend into the story -- the whole masquerade is already complicated enough -- and I wonder how the author will disentangle and sort everything out in the end.

Price: $3.99 on Amazon (for a list of where the book is also available, click here.)
Will I buy it? Pass for now. I did not care for the very early menage scene and it felt a bit gratuitous. Neither Helena nor Nicholas seem like sympathetic characters to me and I am actually more interested in Marianne's story and will wait for that one to be released.

To find out more about Grace Callaway and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

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