Henrietta Cynster is known in society as The Matchbreaker. Young ladies come to her to find out the real motives behind the men courting them. And because of who Henrietta is, a Cynster, a lady in her late twenties, and a discreet listener, she can in fact discover the reasons behind a man's matrimonial ambitions and what lies in his heart, truths which have led to a number of relationships broken off for both party's mutual benefit. But when Henrietta intervenes and tells a friend that James Glossup, from a good family, one of Henrietta's brother's close friends, and fairly comfortable financially, doesn't love her but in fact needs to marry quickly for additional financial considerations, she has broken one match too many and James confronts her about her interference. In explaining to her the reason behind his haste to find a wife, he elicits her sympathy so while she has no remorse about saving both James and her friend from a marriage unlikely to be happy she agrees to help him find a wife who will suit him better and allow him to still meet his time constraints.
Of course, as Henrietta accompanies James in his mission to find a suitable bride, she comes to appreciate him greatly herself, finding his decency, loyalty, and forthrightness to be incredibly attractive. And for his part, James, who has been acquainted with Henrietta for years, finds a strong, beautiful, and alluring woman in her. As they each learn more about the other, they realize that neither of them wants James to find someone else, they want to be together although there are numerous misunderstandings before the sharing of that mutual realization. Once they have acknowledged their love (although not in so many words), the plot takes a more thrillerish turn with so-called accidents to Henrietta being recognized as the life threatening assassination attempts they are and from which the very ardent James steps in to save her time after time. Figuring out why a murderer is out for Henrietta's life and then the cat and mouse game by which he is revealed and caught completely eclipses the already resolved love story between James and Henrietta.
Henrietta as a character is non-typical for an historical romance, having stayed unmarried for so long and having such a degree of independence, indeed such a powerful standing and influence given the social structure of the time. James is no alpha hero. He's quietly genuine and honorable without any large displays of bravado. But somehow this combination of characters strikes very little spark together. They seem fond and comfortable and doggoned nice but the consuming passion and electric attraction that characterizes romances is missing or tepid at best. The pacing of the book is uneven with the developing romance being teased out slowly in the first half and the search for the murderer tearing through the second half at breakneck speed. This difference added to the feel that this was in fact two stories mashed together rather than one seamless whole. As a reader who prefers my romances free of dead bodies or attempted killings, the bipartite plot unfortunately decreased my enjoyment a bit and the lack of spectacular connection between James and Henrietta made this only a moderately satisfying read.
For more information about Stephanie Laurens and the book check out her website. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.