Unbuttoning Miss Hardwick by Deb Marlowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book called to me because I love unrequited love stories. I also like the idea of the heroine working for the hero and having a buttoned up/no-nonsense demeanor but still getting under his skin. I have to say I was very satisfied by this book. Deb Marlowe is going on my reading list now for sure. Her sense of time and place is excellent, but so much life and feeling in her writing, her characters.
Chloe found her way into my heart. I liked everything about her. I can see a little of myself in her, that determination to fix herself so that she could handle anything that comes her way. Her situation in this book called to me deeply. Her fear and loneliness. Her loving heart, and her keen mind to match. Her struggle to face and defeat her fears and climb out of that box she had created for safety, but had grown too big for, so that it was just constricting her overall growth as a person. I really loved her, cheering her strengths and feeling for her vulnerabilities. I wanted her to get her man, and I love that her strategy did exactly that. Not only did she get her man, she let him realize for himself that she was the right woman for him. What a savvy, lovable heroine!
I found Braedon absolutely lickable, warts and all. Big, vital, strong-minded, wounded, afraid to love. What a complex mix that made for a hero I fell head over heels for. Even when he frustrated me with his stubborn determination to cling to old thought patterns that no longer would keep him safe and certainly didn't bring happiness. I felt for him and understood why. His family would make anyone afraid to love and open one's heart. Deep down though, he was a man truly worthy of loving. Even if he didn't think so. Like us all, he faced some real challenges that he had to overcome in his relationships with others, including a young boy who enters his life and raises some old demons. But like a well-made sword, he comes out of the fire even stronger as the impurities are burned away.
As I said earlier, I loved the main storylines, but also the plot threads about Braedon being a collecter of ancient weaponry. It made sense on a deep, symbolic level that a man with his emotional wounds would build himself a citadel of safety full of sharp, protective weapons. In the process, he realizes that when a man walls himself in, he builds a prison as well as a fortress. Whereas, if he allows himself to trust and to love those who prove worthy, he is much more safe in the long run, even if that requires a step of faith and going out into the danger zone of the unknown frontiers of emotion. What a beautiful, meaning-filled message. I am trying to be more strict about five star reviews, but when a book touches me this way, I have to give it the highest rating.
People regularly put down Harlequin books. To each their own. For myself, some of the best and most meaningful books I have read have been written by authors in the Harlequin imprints. They might not be long or have the dubious honor of freedom from the "Harlequin title stigma", but they are hidden treasures all the same. This is one of those books. Definitely recommend it!
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