Caroline Linden – “What A Gentleman Wants”

24 Oct

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Zebra Books, 2006

WHY THIS NOVEL: I read A Rake’s Guide to Seduction and I liked the way Linden told that story.

The back blurb:
“Marcus Reece, Duke of Exeter, has spent most of his life pulling his twin brother out of trouble. An occasional thank you would suffice; instead, his resentful sibling forges his name to a marriage license and presents him with an unwanted wife. She’s a vicar’s widow with a mind of her own who may be the first person in Marcus’s well-ordered life to make him feel…completely out of control.
Hannah can’t help but curse her own idiocy. Dire straits have led her to the altar with a gentleman she hardly knows. Played for a fool, she’s embarrassed, furious, and worse, married to an equally outraged stranger–an exasperating man who unleashes all manner of emotions in Hannah, not to mention unwanted desire.
Reluctantly, she agrees to play the wife until he can sort out the mess. But the nearness of the undeniably attractive Duke and the passion in his black eyes unsettles her well-guarded heart–making her want to do so much more than “act” the role of blissful bride…”

Hannah lives in Middleborough, a place between London and Brighton. She takes care of a man who got hurt in an accident. At the end of that, the man proposes marriage and Hannah, with the move back to her father looming in her future because the new vicar will move in soon, accepts. Hannah’s new husband is David, or so she thinks when she arrives in London with him. David, younger twin brother to Marcus, Duke of Exeter, leaves town on business and Hannah learns that David signed the marriage register with his brother’s name.

Hannah wants to clear up the situation as fast as possible. Marcus wants to pay Hannah off and send her on her way, but when he learns right during their conversation that the news is all over town thanks to David, he thinks it better to go along with David’s cruel joke for some time. Marcus’s wants to avoid scandal. He doesn’t want to jeopardize his sister’s coming out the next season, hurt his mother and sister who rushed to London upon hearing the news, and he wants them to spare the truth about David which would crush them. It also seems that David is responsible for the counterfeited money circling in the ton. Marcus tries to prove David’s innocence so drawing attention to their family would be counteracting in this situation. He decides to go with it, and Hannah, thinking of the future of her daughter, reluctantly agrees.

I had two problems with this. First, David’s inclination to set up his brother and play pranks on him just wasn’t established enough for me to really go with and understand this marriage “prank,” even taking into account David’s panic because of the marriage. It made this more an out-of-the-blue, get-the-main-characters-together device than David’s own decision, especially in light of the consequences this “prank” has for a lot of people, IMO. Second, Marcus pretending to be married to Hannah effectively meant no real marriage and children of his own in the future. He claimed he didn’t need that because David was his heir and he felt guilty about the way his father treated David. But this made for a slight disconnect with my impression of Marcus as a very responsible person. Again, I needed more to be able to go with it. And my opinion of David’s character (so far) as a charming but irresponsible (and selfish) character doesn’t help me understand Marcus better.

These two things took some “just go with it” frame of mind on my side. I think the reason they bothered me, but not enough to impact my enjoyment of the story, is that What a Gentleman Wants is otherwise a beautifully told and well plotted story with nicely drawn characters, including the secondary characters.

Marcus is a very guarded and even cold character. He’s used to everyone doing his biding and Hannah wonders “what sort of self-possession it took to walk into a room–without knocking–and simply know that everyone would pause to acknowledge his entrance” (140). Marcus is responsible for the family, and he takes this responsibility very serious, even if it means to pretend to be married and then get blamed for sending his wife off. On his deathbed, his father particularly charged him with looking out for David, and that is what Marcus did all is life. But while “responsible” is probably the best way to characterize Marcus, always having to be that way also burdens him, even more because there’s an intensely caring man underneath the cold exterior. When Marcus realizes he falls for Hannah he’s afraid. Women (so far) pursued him for his title and his money but not for himself. With Hannah he wonders about his appeal as a man. His slow opening up to Hannah was well done, IMO, and beautiful to read. On the whole, Marcus is a complex character and a man how shows his falling in love with Hannah with more than just lustful thoughts about her.

Hannah is an intelligent woman and does what needs to be done. She treats her daughter Molly lovingly but firm. Hannah and Molly are like a breath of fresh air in Marcus’s life, even though Marcus has (initially) trouble relating to Molly. Hannah’s refuse to do his every biding and her standing up to him is rooted in her practical and down-to-earth character. It’s something Marcus is not used to; it makes him notice Hannah and it allows her to see the man beneath. (Initially,) Hannah is afraid of the attraction she feels for Marcus but she also doesn’t run from it. In short, she’s a mature woman.

What a Gentleman Wants is a subtle story. It’s the small things that count and tell the story, and Linden uses them wonderfully to show how Hannah and Marcus fall slowly albeit reluctantly in love. Even though it’s only in chapter 17 (252-263) that they kiss for the second time, there is a lot of anticipation and heat. Their romance has a couple of distinct turning points, going from the reluctant agreement to pretend to me married, to the wonderful, getting-to-know-each-other-better scene late one night in the kitchen, to each realizing that it’s love, only to have it all snatched away before it could start, to their glorious first night together.

Both Hannah and Marcus start their acquaintance wanting different things. There might be physical attraction, and pretending to me married does suggest looking at the other in a certain way, but it’s not before they get to know each other better that they think there’s really something between them. Both of them are afraid of that and to complicate that, they come from very different backgrounds. Early in the novel there are several scenes that illustrate their differences like for example Hannah’s conversation with Rosalind, Marcus’s and David’s mother, about a nursemaid for Hannah. But even though Hannah and Marcus are afraid, they don’t retreat. There is no bantering for the sake of the page count and there are no misunderstandings. Hannah and Marcus talk, even if it’s not always easy and they’re cautious characters. They feel drawn to each other but they think before they act on their attraction. They are adults and it shows in their behavior.

The secondary plot line, involving David’s entanglement with counterfeited money, doesn’t take away from the romance. For the most time of the story, it’s more like an additional reason why Marcus wants to pretend to be married than a distinct plot line and it leads the romance to its conclusion. It’s only then that it takes precedence over the story. And while I wasn’t happy that the romantic conflict was resolved quite a few pages before the end (~ 80; my mystery “dislike” speaking), I appreciated how the resolution of the secondary plot line put a nice twist on Marcus’s and David’s relationship and made the story come full circle in that way. It also gave Hannah and Marcus the opportunity to show that they really belong together.

On the whole, What a Gentleman Wants is a nice and well told story where the romance is the most important thing. I could have written way more but this is already ***long, so I’ll just say that I’m sure I order David’s story, What a Rogue Desires, not just to see how David reforms but because I like the way Caroline Linden writes.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4,5 / 5


4 Responses to “Caroline Linden – “What A Gentleman Wants””

  1. Christine Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 6:05 pm #

    I have this in my TBR!!! I bought this a bit on impulse when I met Caroline Linden at the NJ Romance Writers of America conference in October 2008, but still haven’t read it! And now I packed it away for the next six months….

    Well, I’m glad you liked it. Now I at least have reason to put it toward the top of the pile when I unpack. 🙂

  2. Taja Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 8:56 pm #

    I never thought about this when I read your construction posts, but of course most of your books are packed away now with the construction going on. That must be tough!

    I think I read somewhere that you’re not really a historical romance reader. So if you read the book, I hope you’ll like it.

  3. Christine Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 10:26 pm #

    You probably did read somewhere that I’m not much of an historical romance reader. But as I reflect back on what I’ve read this past year, I have actually read a lot of different genres. I like that. I’d like to be well read across the romance genre. 🙂

  4. Taja Thursday, November 6, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    Christine, I think you are well read! With A LOT of historicals under your belt or not. 🙂

    It was the thought that just because I was over the moon about two historicals, I don’t expect everybody else to be there with me. I tried to say that I could understand that.

    I agree, I like reading different genres, too. And being well-read is a worthy goal! 🙂 One I should work on more *coughUrbanFantasyforexamplecough*. 😉

    PS: I ordered Linden’s What a Rogue Desires this morning. I liked her other novels that much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: