3.5 out of 5 stars
This book has intense sexual chemistry, pretty decent character growth, some seriously interesting side characters, and a meh intrigue-danger side plot. Though I really enjoyed the book overall, it’s getting the slightly lower rating because I think there were some missed opportunities here. The difference in class (she’s the lady! he’s HER servant!) was super interesting, and could and (perhaps relative to the time period they’re living in) should have been explored more thoroughly. The emotional part of their relationship really felt contingent and dependent on some of the physical chemistry, and though it was enjoyable, it didn’t seem as good as it could have been.
Lady Georgina Maitland has not only a fortune, but estates (left to her by an eccentric aunt) that she needs managed. She hires Harry Pye (someone really should have read that name out loud before saying okay) as her land steward but only really notices that Harry’s an attractive man when they’re stranded one day (storm, broken down carriage, etc). From their first “night” together (stranded, waiting out a storm) it’s clear that they’re physically attracted to one another — they surprise one another with unexpected responses and break down some of their previously held stereotypes about people who come from a certain class.
There are, of course, complicating side plots and characters — George’s estate just happens to be next to the estate Harry grew up on, and Harry has a very complicated past with the owner of that estate (his father got into arguments with the lord of that estate, there were affairs, etc). Harry and his father were more or less kicked off the estate and so many people believe that Harry still holds a grudge. When farmer’s sheep start getting poisoned, everyone assumes that it’s Harry, trying to exact revenge.
The side plot was… more often than not more distracting than interesting. It felt like it was a convenient excuse to get our main characters together, but was never really interesting (or even logical most of the time) beyond that.
Now… once these two characters get together, the sexual connection they share is pretty intense, but what I found unbelievable (spoilers ahead! stop reading if you don’t want spoilers!) was that she’s been a virgin for like 28 years… and suddenly decides to sleep with this guy she’s not in love with? Who works for her? And then they just kind of continue (with many servants, and eventually George’s brothers) all finding out and… with most of them approving and being like, sure, why not? (I mean, some of them don’t initially approve, but I excepted this to be a larger stumbling block and it’s treated pretty cavalierly given the time period and the setup we’ve been given about these characters).
The ending resolutions also almost all feel rushed (the sheep murdering resolution as well as the romance ending), which is unfortunate, because the rest of the story ends up feeling dragged down by sudden-misunderstand-quick-solutions-ta-da! The end!
Comparison to Other Authors:
The sexual chemistry between Hoyt’s characters is always very, very intense, but the sex scenes aren’t usually overly drawn out (it’s not Stephanie Laurens-pages and pages of sex, it’s more like Amanda Quick, we’ve done it, and it was maybe hot, and now we’re done). The side characters are always great (and sometimes temporarily more interesting than the main characters), so it’s not like Lisa Kleypas where you’ll get attached and then get to revisit those characters (I’ve now looked up interviews where Hoyt’s specifically said she’s NOT planning sequels for many of the interesting side characters who have unresolved issues…). I do think the side plots and story-within-a-story is very hit-or-miss, but she’s a great author who, for me at least, seems to be producing consistently 3.5 star+ work…