Monday, September 5

Barely a Lady by Eileen Dreyer

Book 1 in the Drake’s Rakes series

This was an incredibly emotional book. Wow. So, the Earl of Gracechurch, henceforth known as Jack, was once married to Olivia Grace before divorcing her after claiming she cheated on him, gambled notoriously, and that her baby isn’t even his after catching her in a ‘compromising’ position with another man (who, by the way, he killed in a duel). While Olivia is innocent of all the crimes Jack accuses her of, she still gets tossed out onto the streets, penniless with her child, and has to work to make her way for five years while numerous other tragedies occur in her life. Olivia is working with a duchess, helping soldiers after the battle of Waterloo, when she discovers Jack barely alive on the battlefield – wearing a French uniform. Working against her desire for revenge she takes him to the duchess’s townhouse where he wakes – with no recollection of the last five years. Jack believes he and Olivia are still happily married and can't imagine what he could've done to have lost her. What will he do when he discovers the truth? And will he ever remember the years that led up to him donning the Frenchie colors – a truth that puts them all in danger?

Whew. Let me start off by saying that I was so glad that Jack remained Jack throughout the story, and did not turn into Jack’s brother or Jack’s eerily look-a-like best friend or something like that. All too often the injured scoundrel of a husband (or ex-husband in this case) is reformed during his illness – only for us to discover it’s the older brother of said injured scoundrel, and oh by the way the heroine has already slept with him four times so they might as well get married. That vastly improved my mood and my opinion of this writer that she took the hard road – the one fraught with difficulty and peril – in repairing the hero and heroine’s relationship, especially after such strain. The theme of this story: Love, truly, can always find a way.

That being said, while the plot was enjoyably unique it was boring on occasion and way too long. I literally skipped about 50 pages because, while I was thoroughly invested in both the characters and the storyline, nothing was happening. I understand that Jack is still healing from his injuries, but the middle of the book was S-L-O-W. At least 70 pages could’ve been trimmed away without diminishing the value of this work at all. In fact it most assuredly would’ve made it better. While I cannot judge the whole length because I don’t think I’ll ever go back and read those 50 pages, I can tell you that I didn’t feel I was missing them (other than a few plot lines that inched forward during those 50 pages, I barely even notice that I’d skipped them). The romance was sweet at the end, tough in the middle, and harsh at the beginning. It was a truly emotional tale, and even if I wasn’t happy that Jack was included in the HEA, he did make a concerted effort to right his past wrongs – even if nothing he could do now would make up for what he had done in the past.

Jack was kind of annoying. I found I hated how gullible, untrusting, and doubting (and unfair, unjust, unintelligent, annoying, ridiculous, judgemental… gr!) he was, and I hated how he treated his wife. He was always suspicious of the wrong person and I honestly wanted to throw the book against the wall several times on his behavior alone. While I’m glad that Dreyer was able to inspire such a wealth of feeling in me, perhaps making me hate the hero just a little less vehemently would’ve been a plus. To me, Jack will never EVER be good enough for Olivia, who was intelligent, trusting, calm, rational, strong, supportive, and should’ve left the damn Frenchie-coated man for dead. In fact, were it I who had stumbled upon Jack, I would’ve gotten the officials to hang him myself. Nasty, nasty man. Olivia was so magnificent in her ability to forgive Jack and trust him again, opening herself up again to all the hurt he’d piled on her before. It’s hard to have a satisfying HEA when you feel the hero is totally unworthy and will never be able to make up for all he put the heroine through (which, by the way, she came out of better not bitter. Olivia dealt with the ridicule, humiliation, pain, and desperation with grace and I found her truly inspiring) but I did try to find some smidgen of satisfaction in me, if only for Olivia's happiness.

“Sexy”ness rating: Hot

Overall Rating: B-

Bottom Line: While good, this book wasn’t fabulous. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more Dreyer works, as I definitely want to see if her writing improves and condenses as she continues writing. A very emotional tale, the heroine is strong and inspiring but the hero is gullible and doubting and I wasn’t very happy that she got HIM as her HEA hero.

Pages: 392
Published: July 1, 2010
Genre: Historical

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