Saturday, March 5, 2022

Lily Maxton - The Improprer Bride

Cold, arrogant, and demanding Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would never dally with a mere servant. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire, his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them together day and night. As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble. Cassandra is surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employer’s hard façade—and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him. But anything between lord and servant is impossible...and besides, as a widow, she knows love only leads to heartbreak.
Henry is changing, as well. His close brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional isolation...and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady and produce an heir. Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately begins searching for a suitable bride. But Cassandra is the only woman who is never far from his mind or his heart. Contrary to everything he’s been taught to believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match. Now, if only he could convince everyone else of that. Especially Cassandra...

Comment: I decided to add this book to my TBR because of the trope, the main characters are in different classes and their relationship would have been complicated, and I was curious to see how the author would develop the subject.

In this book we meet Henry, marquess of Riverton, as he wakes up surrounded by fire and during the stressful moment, he is hit by burning wood, leaving his life in danger. In the aftermath, he is left with some scarring and self disgust at his appearance but a surprising helping hand comes in the form of mrs Cassandra Davis, his housekeeper. Charged by the doctor to distract the marquess so he doesn't cause delays to his own recovery, Cassandra devises the plan to ask the marquess, who will be bedridden for a while, to teach her German. However, as they get to know each other little by little, both start developing feelings but they are aware of their positions and how such a relationship would be seen. That is why both try to dismiss those feelings, trying to maintain the distance and Henry believes a house party with eligible ladies would be the best way to find a bride, but can he truly forget Cassandra seems perfect for him?

As an idea, this did have everything to work out for me. I even ignored the fact this was 5th in a series and by a few comments here and there, this male protagonist had been a sort of villain in the previous book or even in others as well. Of course, I had no background to appreciate a "redemption" but the story is structured well enough for a new reader to get the idea. It was also nice to see the references to situations in previous books weren't so obvious to make me feel I was missing something because I didn't read them.

However, I definitely didn't have such a great time reading this story and the most obvious reason for me was how this is written. I just couldn't get past the superficiality of everything, which meant all details and character's actions felt lacking realistic behavior and awareness of their surroundings. This is an historical but the dynamics between them would have worked a lot better in a contemporary.

The thing is, although the fun part of thinking about different class people falling in love, the reality is that these romances only work if: a) the surroundings are still recognizable, so the relationship has to develop in such a way that the romance is at least possible even if not likely or b) the suspension of disbelief is met by such a unique voice or amazing world building that the problems that should exist take second stage and don't matter as much (for instance, this is how I interpret the anachronism in some author's work).

In the case of this book, I felt this was very difficult to accept. The interactions between the protagonists and even other characters felt so...improbable if one thinks how a household would be run and how much would be said about an unlikely friendship, not even the marquess health issues would have been enough to mitigate that difference. Plus, the way the characters talked... I'm not usually fussy over things like these, but the dialogue  exchanges were so obviously in American English I just could not ignore it and simply appreciate the plot. It was just  too visible for me. Then, this means that along with some plot choices, the story lost some strength.

The characters themselves are interesting, no doubt. I was intrigued by both their personalities and pasts but these elements didn't seem to have been exploited conveniently for the type of story presented. Everything took such a cliché turn it seemed as if they had to become a couple and the little things or the characterization of what made them who they were was ignored over some pointless scenes, such as the ones regarding the house party. Wouldn't it be more interesting to present the dilemmas of a relationship between an aristocrat and his housekeeper because of themselves and their notion of self, rather than comparing Cassandra to other young ladies in a party that was, to be honest, silly?

I think the author might have done better, given this story and characters something different for the better. The idea is promising and the way these two would fall in love the key to make this a success, but to me this didn't happen and I'm sorry to say I failed to be convinced of their feelings.
Grade: 4/10 

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