Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review: Hardly a Husband by Rebecca Hagan Lee

The third book in the Free Fellows series, this Regency-set romance tells the story of Jarrod, the fifth Marquess of Shepherdston and curate's daughter Sarah, who has had a crush on Jarrod her entire life. After Sarah's father dies, his living is given to an unpleasant man whose family thinks they can claim Sarah's possessions and use her as an unpaid governess. Lord Dunbridge, the nobleman with the power to grant the curacy, has intentionally put Sarah in this position to force her to marry him. But Sarah has other plans, fleeing to London with her aunt. She calls on Jarrod, asking him for help in becoming a courtesan, something she finds preferable to marriage with Lord Dunbridge. She has decided on this course because she refuses to marry of she can't marry the love of her life (Jarrod, of course). He, despite being completely and one hundred percent against marriage as a result of his own parents' disastrous union which scarred him deeply, finds he cannot tolerate the idea of Sarah in anyone else's arms. There is a brief and unsatisfactorily abrupt subplot between Sarah's aunt and Jarrod's godfather here as well but the bulk of the novel concentrates on the main romance. As Jarrod is a member of the Free Fellows League, there is also brief mention of his spying and his obligations to them.

This is not as well done as the previous novels in the series. The characters are not entirely believable in their decisions. Jarrod goes from not recognizing Sarah, who is described as a good childhood friend whose father taught Jarrod, to being wrapped in a pretty steamy embrace with her in a matter of minutes. Sarah, as the upstanding and moral daughter of a good man, seems to have no qualms about potentially becoming a courtesan. The sole nod to a conscience is that she didn't tell her aunt her plan, knowing that it would meet with disapproval. Not exactly the considered and difficult decision of the kind of character she's purported to be would be making. The Free Fellows League plot line felt much more forced and out of place in this novel than in the previous ones, as if it is merely a placeholder for the next to come. Over all I was disappointed in this one but those more engaged by the concept laid forth in the first two books will probably find this one to be perfectly fine.

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