Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: Flirting with Fortune by Erin Knightley


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In this installment of her Sealed with a Kiss series, Erin Knightley takes on a staple character of historical romance: the fortune hunter and adds her own unique twist to his story.

Sir Colin Tate is the eldest son of the late Sir Frederick Tate, a painter of great renown -- what isn't so well known is that, when Sir Frederick Tate died, he left behind an estate buried in debt and it is up to his son, Colin, to save it.

He has entered the social scene intending to find an heiress with a big enough dowry to pay back his father's debt. He was fully prepared to marry for convenience to an agreeable woman and have a pleasant and civil arrangement with her. What he doesn't count on is meeting Beatrice Moore.

As the daughter of the Marquess of Glanville, Beatrice has had her fair share of fortune-hunting gentlemen and she's done a good job of guarding herself against their flattery and attention. It seems Bea's luck is running out, though -- with her mother determined to marry her off during the Little Season. During one of her outings, Bea steals away to Lady Churly's gallery to see the paintings of her favorite artist: Frederick Tate -- and encounters Colin then.

Except Bea doesn't know who he is, and Colin also doesn't know who she is, but the ensuing conversations leaves a very good impression on both our hero and heroine: the usually-guarded Beatrice lets her guard down and allows Colin a glimpse into her personality and Colin sees a small spark of hope that his quest to find a bride might now be all that unpleasant.

When I read the blurb for Flirting with Fortune, I wondered how Erin Knightley would make Colin and Bea work: Colin is hunting a fortune and Bea has it. How, then, can she convince Bea (and the readers) that Colin's intentions are sincere and driven by love and not money?

I think Knightley plots out the story well and the initial encounter of Colin and Bea at Lady Churly's gallery serves as an important touchpoint for our hero and heroine. Away from the prying eyes of society, beyond the rules of the ballroom (and propriety), it was Bea and Colin being themselves, untainted by Colin's desperate need to marry wealth and by Bea's glorious connections and dowry. It was a conversation in its purest, most innocent form and, from that first moment, we can see the chemistry between the two.

"So this is the lady who belongs to the scent of lilacs. How lovely of you to come out and join me."

He was amused.

She was not.

Never mind that the almost musical lilt of his Scottish-tinged accent sent a shiver down the back of Bea's already chilled neck.
- Chapter 2

When Colin discovers who Bea is, his first instinct is to stay away: she's too far above him -- too wealthy, and too titled for an impoverished baronet. But the pull towards Bea is undeniable and Colin has no choice but to follow his heart. And the usually wary Bea throws all of her rules out the window and gives herself the opportunity to enjoy her "friendship" with Colin.

It's also interesting that Knightley's novel features two fortune hunters: Sir Colin Tate and Mr. William Godfrey -- I think in contrasting the two, Knightley shows that Colin needs the money to save his family and William Godfrey needs it to save himself. In that we are reminded that every gentleman seeks marriage for different reasons: for fortune, for connections, for love -- and that there are reasons behind these reasons.

I felt that Bea and Colin's courtship was a bit mundane and a bit too long, extending to the first half of the book. (The engagement happens in Chapter 19 and the conflict rears its ugly head in Chapter 22.) But I understand why Knightley decided to expound on the courtship (part of the genius of her plotting): Colin doesn't have much in terms of material means so he could not sweep Bea into jaunts in the country or court her in a more extravagant way -- but, what Colin does, is offer something that no one has ever given Bea: Colin gave of himself. He shared insights into his life, into his father's work and listened to Bea talk about her paintings. It was a humble gift but one of great magnitude.

"What an honor for you and your family that the prince has agreed to lend the painting. You must be very proud."

He was, actually. Regardless of anything else, his father had come from nothing and had succeeded in earning not only royal favor, but the baronetcy as well. He knew that the title was perhaps not of major significance to someone of Beatrice's status, but he appreciated her sentiment. "I am. Thank you."

Her smile was unstudied and natural, revealing a quarter-turned front tooth that somehow suited her, as if it were rebelling against the straight and narrow. "I cannot tell you how much I have looked forward to this afternoon. It may have been only a few days, but it felt much longer. I fear my family may never allow me to utter the name 'Sir Frederick' at the breakfast table again."
- Chapter 7

The confrontation regarding the fortune-hunting conflict was done very well. I understand Bea's reaction when she discovered the truth about Colin's financial status -- not only was her pride slighted but she truly felt Colin had betrayed her: she thought she knew everything there was about fortune hunters and thought she could identify them -- and Colin knew how much she hated fortune hunters but never bothered to disclose that he was also looking for a fortune. I think Knightley really got inside Colin's head and heart and understood his motivations -- throughout the horrible argument in Chapter 24, Colin was consistent in what he wanted: Beatrice's love. Unfortunately, Bea was too angry to see this. (Not that I side with Colin here: his lying by omission raised some hackles in me as well -- it's still a lie even when you don't say it! >_<)

Flirting with Fortune perfectly mixes the fantasy of romance with the reality of it. Yes, we celebrate the happy ending -- but we must also not forget about what happens after. Colin was adamant in his need to secure his family and it's a practical aspect of love and marriage that cannot be overlooked.

Flirting with Fortune is book 3 in Erin Knightley's Sealed with a Kiss series. To find out more about Erin Knightley and her books, click below:
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5 comments:

  1. Lucky you! I’ve been wanting to read this book for what seems like ages now. Must get out and grab a copy. Thanks for your great review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Connie, if you have the Kobo app, there's an amazing code now for a 50% discount: SEPT50. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Unfortunately, I don’t have that app, but will get the novel soon. Thanks for the tip though! :-)

    ReplyDelete

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