Friday, May 21, 2021

KJ Charles - The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting

Robin Loxleigh and his sister Marianne are the hit of the Season, so attractive and delightful that nobody looks behind their pretty faces.
Until Robin sets his sights on Sir John Hartlebury’s heiress niece. The notoriously graceless baronet isn’t impressed by good looks, or fooled by false charm. He’s sure Robin is a liar—a fortune hunter, a card sharp, and a heartless, greedy fraud—and he’ll protect his niece, whatever it takes.
Then, just when Hart thinks he has Robin at his mercy, things take a sharp left turn. And as the grumpy baronet and the glib fortune hunter start to understand each other, they also find themselves starting to care—more than either of them thought possible.
But Robin's cheated and lied and let people down for money. Can a professional rogue earn an honest happy ever after?

Comment: This recently published book has been praised by some readers whose opinion I tend to share. It was because of that I decided to read it sooner than later, as often I do when a book goes into the pile...

In this story we meet siblings Robin and Marianne, two people who have learned hard lessons as they grew up and now they want only one thing - security for their future. To do so, they are charming, mysterious but humble, witty and poised and despite not pretending they have a lot of money or influence, they pretend pretty much everything else. Their desire is to find someone to marry, whether a heiress for Robin or a rich man for Marianne but playing the ton might have its risks and disaster could happen if they are found. This is what Robin fears and when the uncle of Alice, a heiress he has come to like as a potential bride, finds out the truth he has no way to go except confess and be at his mercy. But will that be such a hardship, after all...?

Anyone who has read books by this author will be in familiar waters for the writing style is as accurate and specific a ever. The detail I love the most in KJ Charles' books is this: the characters might be rakes, might be saints, might be whatever they are but they have emotions and show real human feelings in their interactions with others, especially with the love interest. I just love the mix of loving moments and vulnerabilities shared.

This said, I don't think it would be surprising to know Robin and Alice's uncle - Hart - don't get along at first due to personality differences, but as they spend more time together, their relationship starts to change. I'll admit some moments between them weren't always as smooth as I'd have liked but when they start to show, even if unconsciously, feeling for the other person, I don't think it's possible to not like them together. And, like almost all readers, the scene where Robin defends Hart must be one of the best romantic scenes ever, even without professions of love.

The romance is, definitely, the reason I liked this story the best. The plot and intricacies of the character's roles and their interactions wasn't lost on me; there's an intent here in portraying complicated family connections, what is the importance of appearances, of backgrounds, of status, of beauty and elegance in such a frivolous society.. all these things matter for this story somehow and its shows. But, of course, the fun and romance in this is how the main characters can embody all the necessary traits to be respectable - or respected! - but they don't need all those things to be special or worthy. 

Hart is what I'd call a stoic. He bears hurt and disappointment and invests his time in helping those he loves and who deserve his care but he is also a little lonely and still hurt over past things, namely the rejection by his mother. I think his character's development was well done but he retained this feel of aloofness which I don't know if the author intended...or perhaps it was how I saw it.

Robin is more vivacious, charming but he hides a past of hurt. I think the vulnerability of when he told Hart about it was there, but to me his wording or emotions expressed didn't quite reach the level I expected. I don't think he had to be a wreck to share his hurts but the way the scene played felt a little distanced to me, as if he could be sharing anything else. I'm being picky for not the author's style and not Robin's character are whiny but I kind of wish for a...I don't know, a more romantic scene.

Anyway, this was a good read for me, I was interested in seeing how things would play out, and of course Robins sister and her own situation plays a big part in this story. There are other elements which I fond interesting too but the romance really took center stage for me. I liked the end, it was very sweet and special if one considers the historical setting. I'll certainly keep reading books by this author!
Grade: 8/10

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