Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant (ARC)

Pre-order on Amazon (Release date: June 25, 2013)

In Defense of Kate Westbrook

Kate is beautiful and elegant, intelligent and well-mannered -- and she knows it. She also knows that these traits that she possesses are her ticket to a better, more elevated life than the one she is currently living. Kate is aware of her vanity and her ambitiousness, but she is even more aware of how torturous and agonizing it is to be shunned by society -- to be limited to a particular place -- just because her father married for love, and married a woman deemed unsuitable by society. Kate is determined to change the course of her life, and of her sisters' lives -- and she plans to use any means necessary to attain her goal.

Stupefaction was her stock-in-trade, and she would not stoop to the tedious false modesty of pretending not to know it.
- loc 128

In current times, Kate would be considered a social climber -- even in her own time, her own ambitions (and the very Machiavellian way in which she plans to achieve it) would make her a usurper of sorts. But I liked Kate. I liked her honesty and the very relentless, single-minded way in which she is chasing after her dreams.

And her dreams, while they sound materialistic and mercenary, are actually informed by something deeper and more meaningful: her need for acceptance -- not just of herself, but of her entire family.

Men thought her unfeeling, she knew. Heartless, Mr. Blackshear had pronounced her, the last time he'd come to call. Of course he'd laughed as he'd said it, good-natured and brotherly, though they both knew he had reason to mean it.

Well, be that as it would. She carried enough already, what with worrying for her younger sisters' welfare, scheming to make connections that could better all their prospects, and striving to somehow mend the great rift in Papa's family. She had neither time nor energy enough to feel guilty for every young man she'd disappointed. They'd surely all go on to find girls who could afford the luxury of marrying for love, and they'd be happier than they ever could have been with her.

Beauty faded, after all, and with it, the love it had inspired.
- loc 371

Kate's family actually reminded me of the March family and Kate and her sisters' lives run on parallel lines with Jo and sisters -- except that the personalities and birth orders aren't the same. Viola Westbrook has the same sentiment and interests as Jo. Bea is a mix of Beth and Meg. Rose is the shy side of Beth. And Kate is Cecilia Grant's Amy March.

Throughout the novel, Kate proclaims herself to be practical -- to be above foolish romantic notions -- but, the irony is, she is the greatest dreamer of them all. She believes she can fix the twenty-three-year-old estrangement between her father and his family -- and she has persevered in trying to make a connection where none exists -- where none could exist. Some might see Kate as being prideful because she thinks no man, except a peer, deserves her -- but, with each letter she delivers personally to her aunt's door, she shows a humility that borders on abasement. In so many years that she has done this, she has never received a reply or an acknowledgement -- but she keeps hoping and dreaming.

From guarded to unguarded. Kate is defensive for the most part of the story -- her beauty has made her an expert at deflecting men's unwanted interests. She has also shielded herself with rationalizations about what her sisters need and what she needs to do for her sisters, but, as Kate slowly realizes her dream, when the door finally opens to Kate, the experience slowly chips away at the armor that has long protected her and her illusions.

...Wished she'd never indulged the hope of one day being Lady Astley, never set out to charm Lord Barclay, never caused pain to Louisa Smith.

She wished Mr. Blackshear had been the eldest son of a titled man, with spotless connections.

This whole thing is impossible. He'd told her nothing she hadn't already known, with those words.
- loc 3404

As she moves forward, she becomes more and more exposed -- until, finally, the core of her confronts her with staggering clarity. That life isn't perfect. That she cannot make things fine. That love cannot be commanded. And that her person is not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.

It's when Kate is at her lowest point that she gains her dignity and discovers pride in herself, in her origins, in her family.

It is difficult to love Kate (in the same way it was difficult to love Amy) but we have to (grudgingly) admire her. She emerges from her story a new person, a better person, a person changed by love. (And I think she is my favorite of the three heroines of Cecilia Grant's series.)

Now on to the novel ...

One of my favorite characters in the story, Baron Barclay, says one of my favorite lines in the story: "The reality of war would make a very poor play. ..." -- but Cecilia Grant makes it so that the reality of love does not make a very poor romance. Her hero and heroine are imperfect and so ... ordinary ... that I didn't think they would have an interesting story to tell.

A Woman Entangled is a beautiful tribute to the common, to the mundane, to the dull and obscure: Nick is a barrister with a small practice, made smaller by his brother's marriage to a woman of ill-repute (read: A Gentleman Undone) but he is working towards his goal: a seat in the House of Commons, and the respect of his peers and betters. He fancied himself in love with Kate three years ago but he understands that Kate wants someone grander, more important than him.

"We wouldn't suit, I know." He half raised a hand to forestall her speaking. "Not only because you've set your sights on a more rarefied existence than I shall ever be able to provide, but because I have aspirations of my own. And -- I trust this won't offend you -- you're not the woman to enter into those hopes with me, and stand at my side through thick and thin, as I would desire a wife to do."
- loc 1309

Throughout the novel, Nick and Kate talk about how unsuitable they are for each other, that their plans cannot include the other -- but they are their best and most honest selves when they are together. Cecilia Grant shows us that love, by its very nature, is epic and is beautiful even at its most mortifying. There's a bit of Jane Austen in Grant's writing and how she infuses dignity to her characters and their lives.

A Woman Entangled is the latest installment in Cecilia Grant's Blackshear Family series and will be released on June 25, 2013. To find out more about Cecilia Grant and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook and on Goodreads.

Disclosure: I received the ARC through Edelweiss. (Thank you to Cecilia Grant and to Random House for accepting my request.) Yes, this is an honest review.


  1. Hi, Melissa!

    Thank you!

    I enjoyed your review of Nicole Jordan's latest book. Are you reading any more Regency titles? ^_^

  2. I'm excited to read this one - Cecilia Grant has such a fabulous voice and she does such interesting things with romances. Interesting that you compare Kate to Amy March. Amy has always been one of my least favorite characters, so I'm interested to see Grant redeem an Amy-ish character.

  3. Hey Tin. Thanks for reading my review of Nicole Jordan's latest. I really enjoyed that one. I have a ton of books on my kindle and plenty of paperbacks. A few are Regencies, but I have a feeling I might need to grab a few more. There have been some really good ones out lately.

  4. Hi, Sarah! Can't wait to read your thoughts on this book. ^_^

    Hi, Melissa! Yup! There are a lot of really great ones out and more to be released soon, especially Tessa Dare's book. ^_^



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