Brendan Hampton, Earl of Northam, also known as North, is pursuing a jewel thief with the help of his three boon companions: South, East, and West—The Compass Club.
Then North is accused of being the very thief he is seeking and Lady Elizabeth steps forward with an alibi, one that necessitates a hasty marriage. Their lives thoroughly complicated by secrets, Libby must make a harrowing choice: trust her husband, or lose him forever.
Comment: This is the latest buddy read choice I agreed upon with my friend H.
I can't remember exactly why this was a book we marked to read, perhaps because it would feature a heroine in need of help, but after some years, who knows. Since we both like historical romance, we believed this was going to be a good bet but now we both finished, it seems it was only average for the two of us. As for me, the issue was on how the information is presented to the reader...
In this story we meet hero Brendan Hampton, earl of Northam (North) who, along with his friends from school years (heroes of the next books, this being the first), is part of a small group called the compass club due to the singularity of their titles. They are also charged to find and stop a thief who has been stealing from the ton, meaning it has to be someone who can mingle among the wealthy. That is how he comes to a house party and ends up meeting Elizabeth Penrose, a lady who seems to be a companion to the host despite everyone knowing her father allows her access to money. While they get to know one another and slowly fall into appreciation and then love, the thief strikes again and all clues point out to North. Elizabeth decides to save him by revealing herself as an alibi and that means they need to marry. But will they both trust one another with their secrets?
There were times this was a very confusing story. By reading some opinions and now that I have finished, it's clear the author had that intention from the start, so this story was a mix of intrigue and romance but that meant the method used was to keep the reader blind to certain facts. I can understand this tactic but to me, personally, I wouldn't say it was that well achieved; I know it has worked well for others.
The hero pretty much presents himself from the start as someone with a mission, so the big secret concerns the heroine. It's not too difficult to believe in the reasons why she felt she had to behave like that, as if she were someone who kept the distance from others for some reason, but the way this story is told, while her secrets are kept hidden from the reader, how some red herrings are given for distraction but to me amounted to confusion, how she still allowed herself to feel inferior over the hero in some matters wasn't done in the best way, to make the end feel rewarding. I liked there's a HEA but I was not fully convinced they deserved it...it came to a point I felt these two were just too annoying.
When I finished, I kept thinking all the little details made sense (like why she didn't trust the hero sooner) but when the big reveal is finally in the open, of course that was only possible by how the author manipulated the reader. It was not only the fact some things weren't told on purpose, but how others were mislead for the same reason. I thrillers this works very well because the goal is to uncover a truth I suppose, but here, this being a romance, the goal is to make the hourney worth the HEA and I don't think the hidden stuff was balanced enough with positive scenes or with sharing of things between them to even out the field.
Elizabeth, is, therefore, a mysterious woman. I did feel sorry for what she went through but if she saw herself in such a situation, when she got to a point of no return, I can't imagine her pride would be worth more than her honor...I think she should have asked for help..and she had someone she could go to. North is easier to read but he, too, has his weak moments. For the most part he was as in the dark as the reader so I can discount that on his behavior but he wasn't always an easy character to sympathize with, same as Elizabeth.
I've read this style is characteristic of this author, meaning this way of cleverly insert information that only means something later...but someone has written this can feel manipulative and I agree, because not everything is being told in a way that which could explain why the information wasn't given directly. The method might be clever and intentional but I wasn't as happy about it for most of the reading experience so I can't say I would feel like trying it again so soon.