The Viscount's Betrothal by Louise Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Books like The Viscount's Betrothal validate my decision to subscribe to the Harlequin Historical line. I love that I can find hidden gemlike books by newer authors in my monthly shipment that are up my reading alley. This was a nice, shorter, but satisfying love story. Readers who enjoy the spinster motif likely will be well-pleased with this book. Decima is a character who is likeable and textured. She has valid insecurities that she struggles with, being very tall (5'10"), very freckled, and on-the-shelf for several years at the age of twenty-six. She failed to catch her first season, and lost confidence. It didn't help that her brother is over-bearing and controlling. Yet, finally, Decima is going to make her bid for freedom. She's tired of matchmaking attempts that go awry when the male object fails to fall for her due to her abundant attributes. She plots her escape and ends up snowed in with a delicious Viscount. From the beginning, Adam seems to find her attractive, and she fears it's just the 'port in the storm' phenomenon. But their mutual chemistry is strong and seemingly undeniable. I liked how Ms. Allen kept me on the razor's edge here. There were plenty of nicely sensual moments that didn't end in consummation, which was appropriate considering that Adam is a gentleman, and Decima a lady, and he couldn't at that time marry or make her his mistress. I like that they both struggled with their desire for each other, and the powerful connection that formed between them. I liked the interactions between them that consisted of playing in the snow, bonding over their mutual appreciation of horses, and putting together makeshift meals when they are snowed in. I appreciated how they nursed their respective employees (who were sick and had a broken leg). And they also did some matchmaking for them after they realized that Pru and Bates were in love. I also found the wit and the dialogue to be well done. This is the kind of Regency book I like when I reach for a lighter read. Very period, with nuances that keep the story moving and appeal to me in their portrayal of the lives of members of the ton, especially those who are on the fringes for their perceived lack of what is fashionable.
I like that Decima was realistic. She had moments where she doubted her attractions after having it reinforced for so long that she wasn't in society's mode of beauty. But, at the same time, she took charge of her life and was determined to be happy. I like how she interacted with others--showing a kind, loving personality, but finding the courage to stand up for herself against her bossy brother. Decima was a good heroine.
I also liked Adam. He was honorable, but manly. Although he had a mistress when the story started (and has some discreet assignations with widows that was mentioned), he was not an out and out rake, and he took his responsibilities seriously. He was a very likeable, decent guy, and very attractive and sexy. He saw the appeal in Decima pretty early on the story, and wanted to figure out how they could be together. Things get complicated when he gets trapped into a betrothal, but Adam is determined to find a way for Decima to be his own. I liked his solution to the problem, also playing matchmaker to his fiancee', Olivia (who is afraid of him and not at all attracted to him, only marrying him because her mother demands it), and Decima's gorgeous but diminutive best friend, Henry, when he realizes they are in love. I thought it was a pretty good idea, and the fact that he wasn't going to give up on winning Decima's hand endeared him to me.
It took me a while to read this book because I've been busy with other things, but I certainly looked forward to reading it when I obtained an opportunity. I'd recommend it to fans of lighter, but not fluffy regencies in the traditional mode, but with a nice dose of sensuality (fueled by the well-written chemistry between Decima and Adam).
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