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I did a Sample Reading of this book when it was released in 2012 and really enjoyed the excerpt. I finally got the chance to read this book recently and most of what I wrote in my assessment of the first two sample chapters hold true: Kate's very unique "hobby" is what drew me in, and, when you read further and discover her family's story, you realise that it isn't merely a hobby, but her act of quiet rebellion against her unfeeling brothers. Kate is like many other women (of her time and ours) whose dreams have been suppressed by forces beyond her control -- she's made the best of her situation, and, despite their strained finances, she quietly saves up her portion and indulges in the luxury of fine ladies' undergarments.
It wouldn't matter that no one else would know what she wore beneath her plain wool gowns. It wouldn't matter that her breasts were too generous for the current fashion, or that her hips were slightly wider than what was deemed attractive. For once, Katherine Riley would feel beautiful. Special. Noticed.
- loc 14
I kept waiting for her brothers to receive their comeuppance, but, that didn't seem to be the point of the story. Although I did get the impression that the author was hinting at a subplot relating to Kate's brothers: I honestly thought the "work" they were involved helping a random person (referred to as a "chap" in loc 311) ship supplies to the Crimea was a bit shady, but the author never pursues the thread -- focusing, instead on developing Kate and James's relationship.
James Lancaster was injured in the war and has already given up hope of ever recovering, but his mother believes otherwise and has hired a doctor whom she thinks can help James recover the use of his legs. Kate happens to be the nurse assisting Dr. Michaelson -- and what happens next between James and Kate is instant attraction. For James. For Kate, it's revisiting an infatuation she had felt for James when she first saw him three years ago.
Ava Archer Payne refers to her works as "Hot Historicals" and Out of her League is exactly that -- a straightforward story about our hero and heroine giving in to their mutual attraction and desire to each other. Kate and James are very aware that their relationship is based on physical desire, and neither seems to think about the future. I like how pragmatic our hero and heroine are -- I like that Kate is making very realistic decisions based on her own wants and needs.
"What are you intending?"
"Damned if I know."
"This certainly isn't proper."
"Damned if I care."
To her utter astonishment, Kate wasn't entirely certain she cared, either. She'd played the part of dutiful daughter, dutiful sister, and dutiful nurse her entire life. Now, at the age of three and twenty, she was coming to the realisation that the role didn't entirely suit her. She'd lived her life as though crammed into a pair of shoes that had been pinching and cramping her for years. Here was an opportunity to try something scandalous and new. An invitation to see what she'd been missing, if only she had the courage to reach for it.
- loc 406 to 414
James's recovery happens on two levels: physically, Dr. Michaelson's unconventional treatment works and allows James to walk with the assistance of a cane, and emotionally -- James had resigned himself to having a society marriage with his betrothed Vanessa Kittworthy. He knew it would be a polite marriage, but one with no spark or excitement. He knew his heart wasn't engaged, but, with Kate, James feels everything and rediscovers his lust for life. (Pun intended.)
This is a short novel, but one that also explores the sad circumstances of injured soldiers who have returned home from war: they are not titled or important, and, while they've given up life and limb for their country, they aren't heralded as heroes and invited to balls -- they are left to recuperate in lonely hospitals because their families cannot afford to visit them.
Overall, a very satisfying read. I have a feeling I'll be reading more of Ava Archer Payne's books this coming 2015. ^_^
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