His life was like a mountain- a long, rough climb through jagged peaks, then getting to the top only to find a valley on the other side.
Serena was fired from her job as a governess after a duke rapes her. Now she is determined to passive aggressively blackmail him into providing some support for the child that resulted. The hero, Hugo, is in charge of ensuring that the duke keeps his head above water financially, so when Serena appears and threatens to rock the boat, it's his job to dissuade her.
I hated the premise of this story. Why? Because I hate when rape is used purely as a literary device to strengthen a heroine and that's what its used as here. Serena shows little to no emotional reactions to having been raped unless it a) helps progress the relationship between her and Hugo or b) is used to display Serena's unselfishness through the unswerving commitment and love she has for her unborn child that resulted from the rape.
My problem with this is that the overall tone of the story is not equipped to properly deal with the seriousness of rape. So, when reading this story, rape comes across as either inconsequential or a circumstance that offers new-found strength to women. This ignores most of the emotional impact rape has on a survivor and, by ignoring it, works to trivialize the experience. However, I would like to state that I'm not accusing Milan of condoning or intentionally trivializing sexual violence in any sense. What I am trying to get across is that creating a light-hearted story where rape is the main component of the plot does not work. I feel that there are other reasons that Serena could've lost her job and then set out to blackmail the duke that would've worked much better.
Connor Brice, is hellbent on revenge against his half brother, Sir Robert. The first step in his revenge? Steal Sir Robert's fiancee, Adelaide Ward. The fact that Miss Ward is the same woman Connor had been fascinated with, while sitting in prison, is just a bonus. For her part, Adelaide is trapped. She doesn't want to marry the condescending Sir Robert, but her brother's gambling habit has left her with little choice. Its either marry him for his 5,000 pounds a year or go to the poor house. Things begin to spin out of control though when Connor interferes with her plans and Adelaide gets sucked even further into the brothers' revenge schemes.
Johnson has an interesting revenge plot going on here. Connor's drive and focus on gaining vengeance is believable and I agreed that Sir Robert needed to be taken down a peg or two. The guy was horrible. Poor Adelaide just has the misfortune of getting swept up in the tide of their animosity. So then, what was my problem with the story? The elimination of Adelaide's choices and power. Was she given the choice between Sir Robert and Connor? Yes. Is this more than what the typical historical romances with compromised heroines get? Yes. But honestly, she still didn't get to decide. Sir Robert was painted so horribly that Adelaide would've been committing suicide if she chose him.
Adelaide herself was a pretty good HR heroine. She was practical, smart, and didn't take much crap from Connor. Yet she fell into the innocent "I know nothing what-so-ever about sex" trope that I so loathe. Yes, it's so integrated into the genre that it's practically a requirement, but her extreme naivete about sex still annoyed me. I actually ended up skipping the sex scene between Connor and her, because I just wasn't interested in reading another HR deflowering scene where the more experienced hero shows the heroine the ropes.
But I'll admit that most of the issues I had with this book was a "It's me, not you" situation. An Unexpected Gentleman has a wonderful hero and heroine, a fairly original plot, and some great supporting characters. Most of my problems stemmed from the tropes in the genre.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Elizabeth Hoyt and Lisa Kleypas. Johnson has a writing style that fans of those two authors will enjoy immensely.
The hero in When Beauty Tamed the Beast is based off of the character Gregory House, from the TV show House M.D. This made me unsure about picking up the book. While I love House, I was afraid this would read like really awful fanfiction. Luckily, that wasn't the case. When Beauty Tamed the Beast is very light and humorous with engaging characters. There are also a few homages to the TV show casually thrown in (such as the mention of a patient with the last name Cuddy) but they weren't annoying.
The thing that really made this book enjoyable was the amount of time the two main characters spend together. It was a nice change of pace from other historical romances where the main characters are forced into a marriage and then spend half the book trying to avoid one another. Instead, Linnet and Piers get to know each other over the course of the story. So, you slowly start to see why they would be drawn together.
Also, the way Piers didn't have a sense of personal space was pretty amusing. The morning scenes when he'd come to wake Linnet up to go swimming where probably my favorite parts.
I don't think I'll read any more of the books from this series, but I would recommend fans of Historical Romance give this one a try.