Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Never a Gentleman by Eileen Dreyer


Miss Grace Fairchild is under no illusions about her charms. Painfully plain, she is a soldier's daughter who has spent her life being useful, not learning the treacherous ways of the ton. She may have been caught in a scandal with society's favorite rogue, but how can she marry him when it means losing herself?


Diccan Hilliard doesn't know which of his enemies drugged him and dumped him in Grace's bed, but he does know the outcome. He and Grace must marry. To his surprise, a wild, heady passion flares between them. Yet Diccan is trapped in a deadly game of intrigue Grace knows nothing about. Will his lies destroy Grace just as he realizes how desperately he needs her? And how can he hope for a future with her, when an old enemy has set his murderous sights on them both?

After Grace Fairchild's introduction in Barely a Lady, I wasn't certain she would have "major heroine" appeal.  She was fine in the background, content to be there when and wherever she was needed.  But Grace rarely thought of herself.  Lead heroines, I think, have to be a little bit selfish or certainly have a little bit of gumption and get-up-and-go, if you will.  If I'd doubted her ability as the heroine of her own book after reading Never a Gentleman, I doubt it no more.

For a moment she lay where she was, eyes closed, pain shooting up her bad leg, her stomach threatening revolt. All the heat that had blossomed in her died. She was dizzy and dry-mouthed and confused. And, evidently, lying on the floor of a strange man's bedroom, trapped by his sheets. Christ save her, how could that be?

It's easy to fall in love with romance heroes. Truly.  And there are some heroines whom I at times envy (then I remember there's no deodorant or Excedrin Migraine or Coca-Cola in Regency England, and I thank my lucky stars).  But rarely is there a heroine I completely love and want to protect and shelter and hug until she cannot stand my hugs any longer.  That heroine, my friends, is Grace Fairchild.

The first thing I want to hug her for is the fact that she's been drugged and married without her consent to Diccan Hilliard.
It would be easy. She spent her life being what people expected: daughter, friend, nurse, housekeeper, guard, birth and burial attendant. She would just have to learn what it was Diccan needed, and be that. She had no idea how to earn Diccan's love. But she was very good at being needed. 

You see, Grace believes she's plain and a cripple and there's no way she's going to change that opinion, thank you very much.  She's much beloved by those she knows -- Olivia, Bea and Kate, as well as a number of men under her father's command at various times -- and once she reveals that part of her strength and determination, people previously unaffected by her come to love her.  Diccan's valet, Biddle, for instance:

Behind him the coachman laughed. "Wield a gun, is it? She didn't just wield it. She shot the lights outa one cove and brought t'other to pissin' his pants."

"She saved our lives," Biddle insisted, and Diccan was stunned to see an abject light of devotion in his valet's eyes. Good Lord, what was the world coming to? 

But as this is a romance, it certainly won't do for everyone but Diccan to love Grace.  Unfortunately, well, Diccan is quite unlikeable, particularly after one instance about halfway through the novel which Grace witnesses, thanks to her uncle's meddling.  It's a part Diccan's playing, what the reader and Grace have seen, but that's not to say he isn't a first-class bastard while playing said part because he totally is!

Yes, she thought, Diccan had betrayed her. That would never hurt any less. It could never be forgotten, and she wasn't certain it could be forgiven. 

Ms. Dreyer is then tasked with making Diccan show real concern and love for Grace once he's alerted that she witnessed what she witnessed; he himself admits he feels "a real regard" for her and that keeping her at arm's length would keep her out of danger.  Because he wants her out of danger, however, that means she's thrust straight into the middle of it, and Diccan naturally becomes a changed man when Grace's life is at stake.

How could he not have realized that hidden beneath that plain wrapping lay the most precious of gems?  
Of course, that's not to say theirs is an easy romance.  Oh no.  Grace shall not so easily forgive, and Diccan cannot so easily prove his love by simply saying the words aloud.  Also still yet for Grace and Diccan to overcome is the fact that they aren't truly married.  If you've made it this far, you have to hang on for the rest of the ride.  Never a Gentleman was a historical romance full of emotional highs and lows, and I loved every moment.

(A very special thank you to Forever Romance and Hachette Book Group for providing me with an ARC of Never a Gentleman.)

1 comment:

Eileen Dreyer said...

Thank you so much, not just for loving my Grace, but for throwing me such great questions. It was a pleasure visiting, and hope I get to return when Kate's book appears.

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