3.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
It’s a bit uneven, with some really smashingly written parts sandwiched between some really forgettable, cliched scenes; it also suffers from having a genuinely mediocre climactic sequence. Still, it’s a solid Martin read, with a lot of her trademark action/plot, strong/driven protagonists, and sensuality. I think Martin fans, who like her particular brand of fast-moving drama, will have few complaints. I thought that the side characters were, in some ways, more interesting than the hero and heroine at times… but still, this is an above-average, enjoyable escapist book.
Royal Dewar comes back after spending years abroad managing a sugar plantation. He returns in time to find out that the family coffers have been drained and makes a deathbed promise to honor the marriage his father has painstakingly arranged: a beautiful, and more importantly, extremely wealthy heiress. He’s a duke, and knows what’s expected of him: he’s made vows, wants to set the lands to rights, and also wants to find out more about who swindled his father out of his inheritance.
Of course, he ends up falling (almost instantly) for his soon-to-be-fiance’s equally pretty, but far more gentle and kind, cousin… her poor, distant cousin, who is little more than an unpaid servant in the household.
Part of my problem with this novel was the unevenness of Lily’s characterization: she’s kind and gentle, but was once a thief (sharper) living practically on the streets. At one point she disguises herself (very convincingly) as a fortune teller. She could have been a strong, interesting character, but she gets lost under the supposed strength of Royal, and often only shows her strength when standing up to him (which is okay, but it could have been better).
Further, Jocelyn, the beautiful heiress, starts as a very one-dimensional caricature, but gradually gets a journey of her own… and she’s almost a scene-stealer. There was definitely at least one section of the book where I kind of lost interest in the financial-whodunit-fortune-teller-intrigue and was far more interested in just Jocelyn, and even Lily’s uncle (the sharper).
Still, it’s a fun read, it (mostly) kept me turning the pages, and I certainly don’t regret reading it. It’s not Martin’s strongest… but it’s a solid addition to her repertoire, and good enough that I’ll probably look into the second and third in the series.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
I think Kat Martin is perhaps most similar to Lisa Kleypas in that they both tend to have sensual, but slightly more serious, plotlines, and both will mention social issues in the background. Still, to me, Kleypas’s works feature more thoroughly developed characters with less rushed plotlines. Martin (like Amanda Quick) tends to have more action, more twists and turns to her plot, as well as just more… well, of everything. Not developing each side plot or character as deeply gives her the space to expand out a lot of small cameo-like characters who add flair to the overall story. Also, both Martin and Quick tend to have some historical details without necessarily dwelling on what the issues and causes really were… the details are more just casual reminders of what time period we’re supposed to be in as opposed to more intricate surroundings, etc.