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It took me a while to finish this book because I couldn't stay immersed in the story of Richard and Genevieve and this puzzled me a bit because I love Anna Campbell and have enjoyed all of her previous books.
I loved the idea of the Harmsworth Jewel and the quest to restore it to the Harmsworth family, but I did not like the idea of Sir Richard's plan in order to do so. Deception in romance novels never sit well with me, but I usually read through those books because the action is almost always "justified" by the deceiver in the end.
In this case, I could not accept Sir Richard's justification for wanting to take the jewel away from Genevieve. According to legend, the jewel confirms the rightful succession of the Harmsworth heir, and Richard believes that possession of the jewel will silence the rumours of his bastardy once and for all. But Richard is a bastard, and anyone with even the smallest ounce of common sense could figure the questionable circumstances of Richard's birth sixteen months after his "father" left for a diplomatic assignment to the continent. This does not stop Sir Richard from carrying out his plan: he dyes his hair, takes on the false name of Christopher Evans, and has himself introduced as a scholar to Genevieve's father.
Sir Richard is a man driven by his impulses and he justifies all his actions by recalling the "difficulties" he experienced because of his bastardy. There are moments in the story when his friend, Cam, the Duke of Sedgemoor, tries to reason with him (read: Chapter 20) and Richard's own introspection proves that he realises his wrong judgment. But he turns a blind eye to it! Sigh~
He suffered a momentary pang that he didn't pursue her as his real self. But then, Genevieve would despise the shallow Sir Richard Harmsworth. Hell, she didn't much like Christopher Evans.
- Chapter 5
And I didn't like reading about Genevieve's corruption at the hands of Sir Richard Harmsworth. At the beginning of the story, I was very sympathetic to Genevieve's situation. She's an intellectual who is dedicated to her research, but her father has taken credit for all the academic papers that she's written, dangling her with promises of "sharing" the credit for her future work. She displays her keen intelligence when she was able to figure out that it was Christopher Evans/Richard Harmsworth who broke into the vicarage and then she was able to deduce the motive of the break-in (Read: Chapter 9).
Now she understood why every instinct had leaped to alert the first time he'd sauntered into the parlour. No wonder his touch had always felt familiar. It wasn't some mystical affinity. He'd held her close when he'd disarmed her.
Last night, she'd stormed back through the dark woods, determined to denounce Mr. Evans. How she loathed a thief. Her father had spent the last ten years stealing her work without an ounce of compunction. Now the first man to kiss her turned out to be a thief too.
- Chapter 9
Even her conversations with Christopher/Richard displayed her remarkable sharpness -- she was Ego to his Id, but, as the story progressed and, as their relationship developed, Genevieve slowly lost that very likeable/admirable rational quality of hers and became so ... enraptured by carnal/physical pleasures that she forgot to see reason in all things:
1. She was careless enough to reveal the jewel to Lord Neville, her father's patron, who has a dangerous reputation for acquiring historical pieces regardless of cost. Considering that someone had already broken in, and she knew that the burglar was after the jewel, I would have thought she would be more careful and more circumspect about whom she shared the information (and the jewel) with.
2. She had devoted so much of her time writing the paper regarding the Harmsworth Jewel, and all she needed to do was submit her final draft for publication, which would allow her to step out of her father's shadow and ensure her own place in the academic field -- and she was going to give it all up to save Christopher/Richard's reputation. Sigh~
There's a point in every story where the writer must decide the reason for sex between the hero and heroine. In some stories, there is usually a moment when the heroine feels vulnerable and turns to the hero for comfort. In Genevieve's case, she had been kidnapped and mauled by Lord Neville in his carriage -- more would have happened, if Christopher/Richard hadn't chased after them and caught them. Despite Genevieve's suspicions about Christopher/Richard's motive for being in Little Derrick and his involvement in the series of break-ins at their house (at this point, 3 times), she turns to him and admits that she wants him.
I often see this point as a test of the hero's resolve and honour. A heroic hero, an honourable hero would refuse the offer and see the heroine safely home and find another way to comfort her -- he would need give in to his own needs and desires -- I have yet to meet a hero who has passed this test. All have succumbed to the irresistible temptation offered by the heroine. In Richard's case, I thought that act was doubly dishonourable because he hadn't yet admitted his true identity to Genevieve. In fact, part of Richard's plan was to seduce and "soften" Genevieve enough that she might be more amenable
Her hands curled in his shirt. "Please make me forget what happened tonight."
Oh God, God, God. She sounded so hurt, so wretched. So bereft.
He stared blindly above her and hoped darkness hid the bulge in his trousers. "No."
But no man with a heart could ignore the plea in that trembling hand.
Knowing that he tested his principles but unable to do otherwise, he seized her hand. Her fingers clenched hard around his.
"I can't resist you," he muttered, hoping she wouldn't hear.
She straightened and faced him, bewilderment clear in the flickering light. "I don't understand."
For one moment more, he held back. If he'd marched her to the vicarage when she'd first offered, he'd have kept his hands to himself. But what could a man do when he wanted a woman as badly as he wanted this one and she promised to make all his dreams come true?
"Hell, Genevieve," he groaned in defeat and swept her into his arms.
- Chapter 23
While I did not like the premise of the story, I did appreciate the conflict presented by the writer:
1. Sir Richard ingratiates himself into the Barrett household, hoping to get close to Genevieve. Initially, it's because of the jewel, but, as he gets to know Genevieve more, he realises that she is a jewel far more precious than the Harmsworth Jewel. It seems a matter of semantics, but I saw Sir Richard struggle morally with his wanting to stay, with his wanting to be with Genevieve.
2. Lord Neville was a formidable antagonist, and I truly wondered how Campbell would have resolved this. (Without spoiling anything, I enjoyed how the author handled this part of the story. ^_^)
The very human need for Belonging and the aspiration to Worthiness are also very clear in this story. Richard yearns it from the society he moves in, and Genevieve secretly wishes for it from her father. The small town of Little Derrick also serves as an apt backdrop for this story, offering the very striking reminder that love (and answers) are found in the most unlikely places.
...it surprised Richard how easily everyone accepted him as rich Mr. Evans from Shropshire. He wasn't used to meeting people without the scandal surrounding his birth tainting introductions. It was both appealing and galling, reminding him yet again of the barriers his bastardy placed between him and the world.
- Chapter 4
* * *
"...I like Little Derrick. They're good people, better people than I've met hanging around society, pretending that nobody sneered at me. No one here gives a rat's arse about the fall of my cravat or the cut of my coat. Damn it, they like Christopher Evans. I like Christopher Evans. I never had much truck with Richard Harmsworth. He was a dashed scurvy fellow."
- Chapter 20
I really loved the first book in the series and was surprised at the change of tone in Richard's story. Jonas's story was a bit dark and very emotional. This book was very light and had a lot of humour in it. I will continue to read this series: from what I've read of Cam in this story, I'm definitely curious about What a Duke Dares
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