I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did. It’s a “high concept” romance–in this case, historical Brady Bunch romance–and I bought it because I was in the mood for something light and fluffy. I’ve read the first one (Loving Lady Marcia), and I remember liking-but-not-loving it, so I expected something similar.
And it was similar, of course, but I LOVED it.
One of the things that frequently goes unspoken in historical romances* is that all these “good matches” were an economic necessity for women. It’s more of a background assumption than something explicitly stated. Even when the thing keeping the lovers apart is class-based (“Oh, but I am only a scullery maid, and can never marry Lord Thing!” or whatever), the words “money” and “power” seldom cross the heroine’s mind.
Except Janice (of the House of Brady–I am still getting a tiny kick out of the whole Brady thing) that knows that money and power are at the root of her problems. Her reputation–the one source
of power/marketability she controls–has been tarnished, and she sees quite clearly that marrying the Duke will fix that.
And she says so, explicitly.
To the hero.
She dropped her hands. “Because I’m tired of having no power. He’s a duke. He has plenty. And he can share it.” She let a beat of silence pass. “I know you thought I was after him when I arrived this afternoon. But I wasn’t.”
“Then why are you now? Don’t you have a great deal of influence already, as the daughter of a marquess? Why do you suddenly want more?”
Her face took on a closed expression. “I have very little control over my own fate. And as for why I need more power, I won’t discuss it, other than to say that I heard something today which changed everything for me. It made me realize that I have to take my future into my own hands. Which is why I’ll throw my hat into the ring.” ….
…. “What if I am like the others?” She looked at him with accusing eyes. “Who are you to judge? If a woman is scheming, it’s because she’s trying to survive.” (pp. 111-112)
I loved that scene, and I was in her corner from that point on.
The Duke is an interesting villain: sexually kinky, worried about having that kinkiness damage his reputation in society, willing to take advantage of women without options to satisfy his urges–and yet ultimately, the damaged product of his own father’s evil actions. You could almost see him transplanted to another genre and offered redemption. Fifty Shades of Duke, anyone?
*Of course it goes Even More Unspoken in contemporary romances, because now it is no longer supposed to be the case that women marry for money–even though for most women, the financial difference between being married and staying single is huge. It’d be interesting to read some romances that are blunt about that. I MUST FIND SOME.