Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Review: Blame It On Bath

This is how many historical romance Regencies I read. It wasn’t until the second chapter of BLAME IT ON BATH that I realized this was the second in a series and I had read the first book. I picked it up because the cover was purple and very visually appealing; the blurb featured my favorite trope of plain heroine and handsome hero in a marriage of convenience; and I was pretty sure I’d read the author before and liked her voice. These are the normal things that help push me into a decision to read a new book.
Granted Avon had also sent me the book with the hope I would review it for the ship, but that’s no hardship. It’s not like I wouldn’t have read the book and recommended it anyway. I love using my powers of persuasion and influence for good rather than evil, and what could be better than a romance novel that makes you feel good? Exactly. Avon and I always have your best interests at heart, dear pirates. Never fear.
Back to my opening sentence—BLAME IT ON BATH is the second in a trilogy by Caroline Linden. The premise is that the old duke Durham dies, and it is only on his deathbed he reveals he had a previous marriage no one knew about, which was never annulled, and he never checked to make sure the first wife had died before marrying the second. Meaning, of course, that these three men who had been raised in wealth and privilege may end up without a farthing to their names and trashed reputations through no fault of their own. I’m sure this happened more times than anyone wants to think about. We’ve all had a Britney Spears marriage in our bad-decisions-skeleton closets, and in the good old days, annulments weren’t always available at your nearest Walgreens.
The three brothers handle this news true to their characters. The oldest is content to drink himself into oblivion and let everyone else handle it; the second son, who has been estate manager, is quick to consult with lawyers to straighten it all out as quickly as possible; and the third, the soldier, wants to find the blackmailer that has brought all this to light and put them in danger and beat the hell out of him.
Because this is a mystery that carries over three novels, it doesn’t have the happy resolution of tying up loose ends regarding the original mystery or goal, which usually happens in novels. This doesn’t bother me because I know it will be resolved in book three, and these other two books have whetted my appetite for a good outcome.

Specific to BLAME IT ON BATH, the third son, who was never going to have much money regardless, decides he needs to take up with a very rich heiress before word gets out that or is possibly confirmed that he’s illegitimate. Fortunately for him, as he’s about to leave on his expedition, he is approached by a widow who proposes marriage to him. A very rich widow. The best kind. After finding out that her offer is legitimate and her worth is about ten times what he’d been hoping to get, he agrees to marry her.
This all sounds very mercenary. And I suppose it is, but Captain Gerard de Lacey is actually a very charming bloke, and just the sort of man to bring the wallflowerish Katherine Howe out of her shell. He has no intent of just taking her money and leaving her in the country. He wants a real marriage, not with love perhaps, but affection and a romping good bed sport.
Katherine has arrived at this desperate attempt to get out from under her mother’s incessant maneuvering in her life and also from the very real prospect of being forced to marry a puritan lord who is about as fun and lively as a bag of dead kittens. He seems like an evil villain at first, but time leads us to realize he’s just a dead bore who hated being thwarted. The most romantic of souls might even hope that some vivacious young lady comes along and removes that stick from his backside. Stranger things have happened.
So what unfolds amongst trying to solve the mystery of who is blackmailing the duke and why is a charming little love story that lovers of wallflower stories love best: the handsome charmer falls thoroughly in love with his plain wallflower until she is plain no more. She is quite beautiful because she loves him.
What I loved best about this book (and the love scenes were really really good by the way) was the Grovel Scene. You know the Grovel Scene. Every romance has it. The Speech was reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally, and when I made the correlation in my head, I nodded. These people weren’t particularly attracted to each other at first…or had hopes of anything beyond perhaps friendship, but their friendship was a stable, natural foundation and just as naturally they fell in love with each other.
There are a great many things to recommend this book—if you like dukes, trilogies, mysteries, friends-to-lovers, charmers, wallflowers, authentic sex, humor, fun odd secondary characters, and the natural pains and growths of a relationship between a man and a woman—you’ll enjoy this book too.
And the cover is very purply.
Today we’re going to talk about friends-to-lovers romances. Do you love them or hate them? Why? Do you have a favorite novel that demonstrates this trope? What about wallflowers and plain Janes? Fun or overdone? And lastly, your favorite Grovel Scene. (I don’t think it’s fair to use Pride & Prejudice. I think we should all agree we love it and it’s the best. Now pick the next favorite one on your list. *LOL*)
I have two books to give away (as a set) the first and second books in this trilogy, so you’ll be all caught up for when the third one comes out. Because I’ve already bought them, this giveaway is limited to the continental United States.


quantum said...

Nice review Hellie.

I read this book after reading Janga's positive opinion. Linden interests me as an author with a mathematical background and I think the math training shows in the precise way that the plot proceeds. I even had the feeling that the fisticuffs scene had been planned as a novel way to show Kate's late husband’s heir as not at all the evil villain that we originally envisaged.

Like you, I thought the grovel scene was splendid. The way that Gerard chases Kate into the maze, breaking through a hedge to catch up with her, then leading her to the very centre before baring his soul (and everything else!) was inspired.

The way that the mystery of the blackmailer is left unsolved and handed on, like a baton, for Charley to solve in the next book, also for me hints at the mathematical mind working behind the scenes.

I'm definitely going to read the final book!

TerriOsburn said...

I read the short story prequel to this trilogy. LOVED Ms. Linden's voice. And for full disclosure, she's been a guest here and mentors a member of the crew, so we have all sorts of other reasons to like her. LOL!

But who needs those reasons when the writing speaks for itself. This has everything I want in a book. Uhm...can pirates win? LOL!

The grovel scene. I'll have to think about that. Let me drink some coffee and get back to you.

MsHellion said...

Q, I knew you had the discerning mind to have already snatched up these books! But it's always great to have another recommendation to back me up...I'm a pirate, you know, and not everyone takes me at my word. :)

MsHellion said...

Terri, I *want* a mentor. Why don't awesome authors like me?

Yes, pirates can win, since I only have TWO comments and you're the only one of them who lives in the continental united states. I'd say your chances are phenomenal.

Scapegoat said...

Have to admit I have not yet read Mrs. Linden but I do love a great grovel scene! :)

I have to ask - what's with the title? Is it Bath as in a bathtub or Bath as in the town? Interested to know because I had the pleasure of visiting the town once and love reading stories set there.

Friends to lovers is a tricky but when authors get it right, its one of my all time favs.

I find I'm more drawn to stories with heroines who have some sort of defect or issue than just the wallflower. Likewise, the raving beauty who has a geeky side or could care less about looks really draws me.

TerriOsburn said...

I know Caroline posted a pic of an assembly room from Bath on her FB page yesterday, so I believe the Bath in question IS the city. :)

Janga said...

The thing I loved best about this book was Gerard's gradual awakening to Kate. I particularly love this passage:

“She would never have the stunning looks and vivacious manners that often caught men’s eyes and struck them dumb at first glance—like her mother—but she was something even more appealing at second glance: she was kind and warm and genuinely interested in others. Her wit was quiet but keen, and she never exercised it cruelly. Any man who spent half an hour in her company would quickly agree with Gerard that she was the proverbial hidden pearl with a soft quiet glow rather than the alluring sparkle of some women.”

I liked BIOB so well that I wrote about it twice: a review at The Romance Dish and a single-lens view at Heroes and Heartbreakers. Like Q, I am eager for The Way to a Duke's Heart (August 28) and the resolution of the mystery.

Friends to lovers is #2 on my list of favorite tropes. Loretta Chase's Last Night's Scandal is probably my all-time favorite with this theme. A long-anticipated book that was practically perfect with the first read, it only gets better with each reread.

TerriOsburn said...

Though I haven't read much of her work, I'd say Linden is the best author you don't hear that much about. She has a solid backlist and a wonderful Historical voice, as Janga's excerpt reveals.

I can't think of specific Friend to Lovers books, but I love that moment when one or the other (or both!) realize what they've wanted was right there all along. That's such a sweet moment. Though I imagine very tough to write.

Maureen said...

Sounds intriguing! Fav grovel scene... I can't think of any in books, but I did enjoy watching Sandra Bullocks do the grovel thing in The Proposal...great public humiliation...

Oh, I guess I like when the hero grovels not so much to the heroine, but with the realization that they have been really, really wrong. More of a spiritual grovel that hopefully comes before the rebirth of committment to the greater good...

TerriOsburn said...

I forgot to mention that Hellie is hanging with her dad doing the doc appointment thing today. But she should be back later.

MsHellion said...

Sorry, I've been gone all day. Good day--but just keep Dad some company before I needed to come home.

@Scape, yes, it was the city of Bath kind of bath. However, the book I'm reading now features bath-baths and a pretty girl who'd rather focus about her career ambitions than be a belle. The hero is also rather unconventional for his role.

@Janga, when I was reading it, I thought it was one you would adore--and also one Terri would too, because the hero was rather "beta" (or a textbook alpha), but delicious and one worth rooting for (much like his brother Edward was.) I've really enjoyed this trilogy so far and also cannot wait for the summary--and the growth of a certain Duke. (I'm not sure I'd call Charlie an alpha either, but definitely seems the most selfish of the three brothers. His growth is going to be an interesting metamorphosis.)

@Terri, I agree--Linden is one of the best authors you don't hear much about--but I think this is going to change. I think her books just get better and better.

@Mo, Sandra Bullock does do a great grovel. :) Hugh Grant did some great grovels in Music & Lyrics, Love Actually, and Did You Hear About the Morgans? Of course, you can't really see spiritual grovels on the big screen. *LOL* But yeah, that moment is great in books...