27 February 2012

Jillian Hunter: the Boscastles

Having read through Eloisa Jamse's Desperate Duchesses I decided to follow up with Jillian Hunter's Boscastle series.  Well, the first six anyway (after the initial set of brothers and sisters I couldn't muster up the energy for the cousins).

The Seduction of an English Scoundrel opens with a bride left at the altar.  Lady Jane Welsham, eldest daughter of the Earl of Belshire, was to have married Sir Nigel Boscastle - only Nigel fails to appear.  Unbeknownst to the guests Nigel has run off to marry his true love (and wait until you get a load of her) with Jane's blessing (because now she and her sisters will be free to make their own love-matches).  Everything would have gone off swimmingly except for one Grayson Boscastle, Marquess of Sedgecroft, who gets in the way.  As head of the Boscastle family Grayson decides that Jane should not suffer the social ostracism of a broken engagement. The notorious rake is determined to squire Jane about Society until the appropriate gentlemen take an interest in her.

Except this is a romance novel and the minute Grayson is described as "lion-like" with his golden mane of hair and Boscastle Blue eyes you know right where this is going.  Although he has the rake reputation for good reason, he hasn't been doing much "rake"-ing of late.  He interited the marquessate after the sudden death of his father, brought on by the mysterious death of his youngest brother, Brandon, in India.  Now he's the head of a rambunctious, grieving family and the determined playboy has reluctantly started thinking he just might need a wife.  Jane (and her heart-shaped bottom, which Grayson had been ogling during the botched wedding) is able to tie Grayson into knots; likewise Jane is having trouble dealing with her physical reaction to Grayson's close attentions.  When Grayson finds out about Jane's role in the wedding debacle - and the two start taking "revenge" on each other - the road to the altar is both sexy and funny (Congreve rockets, who knew?).

Chloe, the youngest sister, takes up the series in the second book, The Love Affair of an English Lord.  The title is a bit of a misnomer - this isn't so much a love affair as a murder mystery.  Chloe has got herself banished to the country for misbehaving with Baron Brentford in the previous book (the baron makes himself a nuisance in several Boscastle books).  One night she finds Dominic, Viscount Stratfield, in her closet.  Aside from total social ruin if Dominic is found in her closet (and he's really hot, truth be told), he is also supposed to be dead and buried (he is still recovering from the stab wounds).  Chloe keeps his secret, they have insta-lust, then fall in love, and you can guess the rest.  I didn't like this as much as the first book - I missed the light touch - and the book feels like it has a few plotholes.

But I kept on reading the series because I wanted to get to The Wedding Night of an English Rogue.  This is Heath's book (and he's really not a rogue - that sobriquet would belong to Devon or Drake).  Heath is probably the most respectable of the Boscastle males - a decorated soldier and respected intelligence officer.  Heath agrees to play bodyguard to his commander's fiancee.  Lady Julia Hepworth Whitby, a rich widow, once captured Heath's heart when they were young - by accidentally shooting him at a house party.  They are now older and wiser but no less attracted to each other.  Through a series of incidents and revelations (and a naked sketch) Heath and Julia rekindle their old romance, taking it to the logical conclusion.

I liked this installment slightly better than Grayson and Jane's book.  The past history between hero and heroine makes for a good backbone to the story and the mystery/thriller aspect of the tale is tight and well-plotted.  Just one plothole: years-old scars do not disappear and reappear when convenient for the narrative (Heath's shirt is off in one scene and Julia doesn't mention his scars yet in a later scene Julia gets his shirt off and the scars are a topic of conversation).

The rakish Drake is next up for romance in The Wicked Games of a Gentleman.  Whilst angling to catch - I'm not sure what the correct word is when gentlemen compete for the exclusive attentions of a mistress, "hire" doesn't seem appropriate - the fascinating courtesan Maribella, Drake gets caught up in helping governess-cum-companion Eloise Goodwin track down her charge. Eloise is tasked with keeping the spoiled Thalia out of the arms of unsuitable men and down the aisle for her wedding in several weeks' time (note: Thalia's brother is a spineless spendthrift) meaning Drake's assistance is needed on a few occasions.  But Eloise has problems of her own - a weaselly piece of turd from her past is threatening her with blackmail - and Drake happily gives up the charms of the courtesan for those of the governess.  While not quite as good as the previous book, Hunter's light touch kept the book going even when the mystery plot became convoluted (I will never think of "bobbing for apples" in the same way again).

The last unmarried Boscastle male, Devon, is determined to stay that way.  Until a house party guest in The Sinful Nights of a Nobleman tricks him into a compromising situation with Miss Jocelyn Lydbury.  Hedonist that he is, Devon is a well-bred gentleman to the core and he proposes to Jocelyn on the spot, marrying her a few weeks later in London.  Trouble follows them, however.  Someone with a grudge is trying to drive a wedge between husband and wife, with most efforts meant to dishonor or injure Devon in some way.  Devon and Jocelyn also learn to live with one another and rearrange their lives to make the marriage work.  I really liked how Hunter changed up the marriage plot in this novel to keep it from feeling too much like the previous books.  It also brings up some plot threads laid in Chloe's books (those plotholes I mentioned are partially filled here).

This leaves the final book in the original Boscastle six for Emma, the Dainty Dictator.  I have an issue with Emma - as a stickler for what is "proper" in the ton and Society, why the hell is she running a finishing school for young ladies?  That smacks a bit of governessing and trade.  Anyhoo, proper Emma, who is getting lonely now that she's finished mourning her husband, receives an unwelcome advance from a suitor.  Adrian Ruxley, the disgraced Viscount Wolverton, comes to her rescue but is accidentally coshed by a housemaid.  Oops.  Adrian recouperates from his injury under Emma's roof (which is really Heath's and Julia's house) and begins to drive Emma distracted.  Much as he tries to court her, the Boscastle brothers get in the way of any sort of "seduction" forcing Adrian to break into Emma's bedchamber to propose (the Boscastle women get him safely out of the house once he's finished).

After the excitement of Heath/Drake/Devon's books, Emma's book is a bit anticlimactic.  The drama is all family drama on Adrian's side (and most of it due to jealous and irrational fathers).  Incidentally, Adrian is only the heir to a dukedom, not a duke as yet, so the title The Devilish Pleasures of a Duke is very much a misnomer.  This final volume is nice conclusion to the original six Boscastle siblings but I really don't have the energy to follow up with Gabriel's and the books belonging to other cousins/hangers-on.

No comments:

Post a Comment