If I've already confused you with the title of my review, then you know how I felt after reading this book...a little amused, yet not sure how or why. Then I remembered, oh, wait, it was all because of a sheep. Actually, I'm still stumped as to why it all hinged on a sheep, why the author chose that particular plot device...if it can really be called that. Who'd have thought an always hungry sheep could be the justification for a couple's first meeting? Will wonders never cease?
The earl of Rochester, on his deathbed, gives to his butler, Reeves, the daunting task of finding his illegitimate son, Tristan, so that he can pass on his title. Never mind the fact that the negligent earl never truly cared for any of his children, was never there for them or could be bothered with his by blows - having one foot in the grave has remarkable powers of the soul-seeking persuasion. Knowing he's wronged his children, he's giving Reeves the task of setting his wrongs to right, and making sure Tristan is up to scratch. Reeves finds Tristan in a coastal community, where the former sea captain helps his fellow sailers by taking them into his home. Nearby is a lovely young widow, Prudence Thistlewaite, who is in fact the bain of his existence...or is she? Infuriating as her ridiculous claims about his sheep being in her garden may be, he realizes there's more to the woman than at first he thought. With an interfering new butler that just won't quit till he's quality "ton", a bevy of sailors all needing his help and an attractive neighbor to teach him all about the rules of polite society, Tristan has got his hands full. Add to that the possibility of finding his long lost brother and it makes for a full ship in this captain's log.
Three stars goes for one of the more lighthearted and fun historical reads I've had in a while (for that I'm grateful). Tristan and Prudence were a delightful couple and I actually liked all the sailor lingo that's characteristic of much of Tristan's and his fellow sailors speech. In fact, the butler in training, Stevens, who is one of Tristan's former sailors, is probably one of the best and funniest characters of the book. I just couldn't give it a full five though for a few reasons (by the way, a three star rating means it's "okay", it's not a bad rating). One: I felt that, given his demanding task, Reeves was often a more prominent character than the main ones. Strong secondary characters are important, but I think his position as butler to the late earl was a little overdone and he somewhat overshadows Tristan and Prudence's relationship. Two: Tristan and Prudence's reason for meeting was weak. This is where it all hinges on a sheep.I just couldn't believe a "mystery" surrounding a sheep was the reason for Tristan and Pru's grand get together. Sure, Tristan needs her help to get his inheritance, but it's really the sheep he has to thank for his meeting Pru. Three: There was a good conflict between the two main characters at first. Towards the end though, Tristan completely does a one-eighty and all of Pru's efforts to help bring him into society seemed wasted. Four: Tristan and Pru's relationship felt almost forced. One minute he can't stand her, the next she's a fiery woman who flames his desires instantly. The intense focus on Reeves's role and his search for Christian was actually more interesting, unfortunately. Despite that it was lighthearted and amusing at times, it ended up seeming like more of a set-up for Christian's story...so here's to hoping his is a good one.