Saturday, March 27, 2021

Heather Hiestand - The Marquess of Cake

Scotch trifle fit for Queen Victoria, scones with clotted cream…Alys Redcake knows the way to a man’s heart. Yet she is unaware that with each morsel—and flash of ankle—she is seducing the handsome marquess frequenting her father’s tea shop. Unmarried at twenty-six, Alys’s first love is the family business. But thoughts of the gentleman’s touch are driving her to distraction…
With his weakness for sugar, the Marquess of Hatbrook can imagine no more desirable woman than one scented with cake and spice. Mistaking Alys for a mere waitress, he has no doubt she would make a most delicious mistress. And when he finds himself in need of an heir, he plans to make her his convenient bride. Yet as they satisfy their craving for one another, business and pleasure suddenly collide. Will Hatbrook’s passion for sweets—and for Alys—be his heart’s undoing?

Comment: I got interested in this book back in 2015, probably because it would feature a titled hero and a common heroine, a pairing that can be hard to pull off in an historical. I finally got to it but I'm afraid this isn't one of those I regret having waited to read...

This is the story of the Redcake family, who has come from nothing but their efforts got them money and status and now even a knighthood for the father of the family. With this also come expectations in the rise in status of the whole family and that is especially hard to accept for Alys, the older daughter, who has worked her whole life and enjoys the bakery she took charge of years ago.
The marquess of Hartbrook had a difficult time balancing the family's money in the past but they are now in a comfortable position. This leaves him time to savor and appreciate the pastries being sold at Redcake's bakery and the young woman he mistakes for a waitress is easy on his eyes. When he discovers her identity he is surprised and interestingly, their paths start to cross socially quite a lot. But will they be able to be a match in all things when their backgrounds have been so different?

Now, if this were to be the plot of this book, I think it would be fresh and a novelty among so many historicals. At first, it looked like it would be so, even though I was a little put off by the weird names and writing and, in particular, by the lack of editing (example: in one line someone would be talking and instead of following in the same line with the often "he said, she did", etc, that part would be in the line below. How distracting....and also, from one line to another, there would be a jump in scene or in situation... I think some graphic changes would be necessary to make reading easier), but in the end, the plot went off into so many paths, I struggled to keep track of what mattered.

In the beginning, it would seem the story would be about the differences between the protagonists but with the common love for pastries, they would want to be together. It was like this, more or less, but as the story progressed, the tone and content of the story went from a simple but cute historical to something filled with unlikable characters and avoidable situations. I started to dislike reading about these people, it felt like all elements of both families were too weird, too robotic in their interactions and their motifs to act that way weren't explained properly.

In fact, I started to think that perhaps the author has outlines her plans for this book, started to write a way then maybe she stopped and when she came back, the story went off in a different route. It did feel as if things went on so differently from the beginning, as if the characters changed overnight. It was not even half way though that I felt the story was no longer appealing to me. I wanted to leave this unfinished but I still hoped that maybe things would improve. For me, they didn't.

I can only imagine the effort to organize the ideas, to actually write the book, so I don't want to sound offensive towards the author's work but to me things derailed significantly and the characters started to act foolishly and maliciously...I can't understand how we are supposed to see their good side or the positive aspects of their personalities. I got the feeling the issue was how the author wrote these things, too many ideas, too many thoughts mixed together... the writing felt inconsistent.

I had hopes for the main couple but not even them helped save the book for me. The hero went from peculiar (because he so obviously had a sweet tooth) to an alpha who had no time for the heroine's doubts and she went from feeling she didn't want to leave her work to be in the middle of petty discussions with her sisters (who were quite immature and annoying from a certain point on) and I can't understand why the tone surrounding all these changes went through such a radical twist.

There are some elements (the hero's mother disease and how that as perceived by society, the emotional doubts of how to be acceptable among the aristocracy while not making mistakes, among others) which were interesting things to develop but I don't think this was successfully done. I just don't feel interested in knowing more and despite the obvious setting up for future stories, I will not continue with the series because, in the end, the writing style and the execution were a definite let down for me.

Grade: 3/10

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