The Earl of Hawkeswell has been living in limbo for two years, ever since his bride, heiress Verity Thompson, disappeared on their wedding day. As she hasn’t been declared deceased, Hawkeswell cannot legally remarry and cannot access his wife’s funds — either of which would settle his dire financial crisis.
Coerced into marrying Hawkeswell by her duplicitous cousin, Verity fled London for the countryside. With no interest in the earl’s title or status, she was willing to forfeit her inheritance in exchange for her freedom. Now that her ruse has been discovered, Verity is forced to return to a loveless marriage.
Hawkeswell strikes a bargain with Verity: In return for three kisses a day, he will not insist on his conjugal rights. But Verity discovers there are kisses … and then there are kisses … as she begins to learn the true meaning of seduction at the hands of a master.
I am genuinely perplexed by the mixed reviews for this series. Apart from the sometimes cringeworthy uses of American words and expressions (fishing poles?), it is one of the most engaging historical romance series I have come across.
But therein, I suspect, lies the problem. In a genre currently populated by Disney-style fluff pieces with an abundance of often pointless explicit sex, Madeline Hunter’s more realistic depictions of Regency-era characters and attitudes just aren’t cutting it. It’s disappointing, because the modernised Disney fluff is the very reason I don’t read anywhere near as much in the historical genre as I do contemporary.
Provocative in Pearls is the second book in the Rarest Blooms series, and I loved every moment of it. In fact, I liked this one even more than the first in the series, for the gradual, believable development of a desperate man and a beaten woman forced into a marriage, into two characters in a deep, deep love. I loved the humour between the men. I loved the gestures the characters made that spoke a lot more about how they felt than any words could do.
Perhaps what I love most is that the characters are bringing a genuine Regency-era mentality to their lives, to their marriages. I’m about as much of a feminist as you can get, but when I pick up a book in the historical romance genre, I expect women to be up against the challenges and restrictions of their times. Misplaced feminism that is accepted by the other characters makes me cringe. After all, what is the point in the historical setting if things are going to be as they are in the twenty-first century, only with fancier dresses?
There was angst aplenty in Provocative in Pearls, and our hero had more than one opportunity to prove himself his wife’s greatest champion. I loved the well-constructed scenes from start to finish, showing our Regency aristocrat – despite himself – finding himself in love with his errant wife.
But, oh if only US publishers took more care with language! I am so, so, so, so tired of being yanked out of the story by American English! This is also the first historical romance I remember reading where arse was misspelt as ass – more than once. There’s no excuse for the use of such blatant American terminology in an allegedly English setting. If the rest of us can recognise these terms as American, American editors should be able to recognise what is British!
Even so, this was one of my better historical romance reads… ever. I love this series.