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on 13 October 2008
The first quarter of this book was really enjoyable and I settled myself comfortably in my chair for a good read. Unfortunately the initial promise of the book rather faded and by the end I felt quite differently toward it. The overall idea was good, that after one night's recklessness with a known heartless rake, the widow Cassandra, Lady Colchester, finds herself pregnant. Thrown out by her relatives she is forced to work in a hat shop to make ends meet, eventually giving birth to daughter June. When Cassandra realises that she is dying of consumption, she knows she has to prepare June for her future and so takes her to her father, Lord Vincent Sinclair, second son of a duke.

Everyone knows that Vincent is a womanising rake whose affections are never engaged. Now Vincent is facing up to family expectations and has a fiancée in tow. But when he discovers he is a father he finds he can't quite ignore Cassandra and June and ends up making a contract to look after them both, despite the fact he could have ignored them (particularly when they discover Cassandra isn't dying).

Up to this point the book was great. However it now falls into a 'will they/won't they rekindle their physical relationship' section interspersed with the more enjoyable - and character-building - conversations between the two of them. The underlying problem is that Vincent can't bring himself to love anyone (not a particularly novel theme in this kind of book!) and that he's engaged anyway. Cassandra doesn't want to be anyone's mistress but might find there is more honour and satisfaction in that than she initially thought. Can they find happiness? Can all the problems besetting Vincent be overcome?

The characterisation in this book was variable. Vincent was fairly believable, as was Cassandra, but many of the other characters seemed rather fake. The heartless fiancée is very common in this kind of book, the mad father, the long-held grudges between brothers - much of this was familiar to me and not handled especially well in this story. There were some dreadful howlers in terms of accuracy with food - people have biscuits with butter for breakfast, someone is offered cookies, that sort of thing. MacLean's historicity is mostly seamless apart from these dodgy slips into American food but they really annoyed me and could have easily been checked. She didn't give much detail on clothing or place but the story is set at the end of the 19th century when trains are present - another Americanism was referring to the 'train station' (the correct British rendition is 'railway station').

This book wasn't bad at all, the writing was fairly fluid and the pacing was good. However the central love story didn't convince me, neither did the reformation of Vincent to a monogamous man after years of raking. Cassandra was more believable although I wasn't entirely sure how she'd squared her behaviour away with her previous strongly-held beliefs. This book will be enjoyed by those who devour this genre of writing but there are many better examples out there.

Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book © Helen Hancox 2008
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on 2 July 2013
if you are into this kind of book it is well worth the read - moves along well with the story
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on 5 June 2015
A good read and good history
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on 5 May 2015
this is an enjoyable series
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