Never A Gentleman
Forever Books, March 29, 2011 $7.99
HE HIDES HIS TRUE COLORS . . .
Miss Grace Fairchild is under no illusions about her charms. Painfully plain, she is a soldier's daughter who has spent her life being useful, not learning the treacherous ways of the ton. She may have been caught in a scandal with society's favorite rogue, but how can she marry him when it means losing herself?
WHILE SHE HIDES HER TRUE SELF . . .
Diccan Hilliard doesn't know which of his enemies drugged him and dumped him in Grace's bed, but he does know the outcome. He and Grace must marry. To his surprise, a wild, heady passion flares between them. Yet Diccan is trapped in a deadly game of intrigue Grace knows nothing about. Will his lies destroy Grace just as he realizes how desperately he needs her? And how can he hope for a future with her, when an old enemy has set his murderous sights on them both?
Just a few weeks ago, I proclaimed my love of Marriage of Convenience plots, except in the case of historical romance.
So of course the first historical I read after writing that post features a Marriage of Convenience plot, and damn if Eileen Dreyer doesn’t make me eat those words with Never A Gentleman.
The heroine, Grace, has no need of Diccan. As a general’s daughter, she has taken care of others her entire life. She subdued her personality and sacrificed her own dreams to be what her father and the soldiers she cared for needed. After her father’s death, Grace’s only wish is to retire to the country, breed horses, and be herself.
But then she is compromised. Although Grace doesn’t want to get married, she does so to protect Diccan while he is in service to the Crown. Politics, intrigue, deception and societal rules–all the typical elements of historical romantic suspense–abound. But that is not what makes this book special.
In Never A Gentleman, Dreyer beautifully and evocatively taps into the ageless dilemma faced by women daily: Trapped between duty to others and what we want for ourselves, how do we choose which path to follow?
After a night of passion, Grace realizes she has fallen in love with her mostly absent and negligent husband. (Throughout the book, Diccan must ignore Grace to keep her safe from the attention of the bad guys. But she doesn’t know that.):
Grace stood in the middle of her bedroom and thought of what her day would be. What all her days would be, slipping into progressively tighter and tighter stays, boxed in by society and convention and the casual oppression of the ton, all so she could hold onto a husband who didn’t want her. . . .
Standing there in the middle of her uninspiring blue room, Grace came to the most momentous decision of her life. She wouldn’t do it. She couldn’t. She had given up everything for him. Everything she’d wanted. Everything she’d once hoped to be. All she had left was her self-respect and she was about to peddle that away for a look. A kiss. A casual glance across the room. She would once again sentence herself to the periphery of everyone else’s lives for nothing more than Diccan’s notice.
By God, it wasn’t enough.
The suspense plot is complex with plenty of twists at the end. But for me, Grace’s battle to claim her life, and the painful, emotionally charged moments when she breaks and then re-forms into a stronger woman, define this book. As for the Marriage of Convenience, the true beauty of that plot comes when Grace carves out her destiny with Diccan on her own terms.