Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review: An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels

From the Back Cover:

Experience the drama of the Little Season in the first of a new series by USA Today bestselling author Kasey Michaels, in which three dashing war heroes have finally met their matches… 

Gabriel Sinclair has returned from battle as reluctant heir to a dukedom. As if his new responsibilities weren't enough, Gabriel's aunt enlists him to sponsor a young heiress through London's Little Season. Yet Miss Thea Neville is hardly the tedious obligation he expected. She's exotic and enchanting—and utterly unaware of the secret poised to destroy her family's reputation. 

After ten years in America, Thea is ready to do her duty and marry well. Deportment lessons, modistes, balls—the ton is a minefield she could scarcely navigate without Gabriel's help. By rights, she should accept the first bachelor who offers for her. Instead, she's succumbing to a dangerous attraction to her wickedly handsome chaperone—one that could unhinge her plans in the most delicious way. 

My Thoughts:

This was my first Kasey Michaels novel, but it won't be my last. (I'll be reviewing book two in this series tomorrow.) I was delighted to find such a smart. humorous writing style.

The story has a fantastic opening scene with Gabriel Sinclair, and the men who will be the heroes of the other books in this series, awaiting Napoleon's surrender only to be ambushed by the French at what will become known as the Battle of Champaubert. Some of them are wounded, all of them are captured, and all of them nurse a grudge against a young nobleman, Myles Neville, who was sent for reinforcements and never returned, leaving the men to their fate.

A year later, Gabriel is still seething over Neville's undeserved status as a war hero and hating Neville's father, the Earl of Broxley, for buying him the commission he was woefully underqualified for. So when his eccentric Aunt Vivian, Duchess of Cranbrook, returns from Virginia with one Miss Thea Neville in tow, a plan for revenge begins to form. Gabriel is quick to figure out that her last name can't be a coincidence, though it seems Thea is unaware of her connection to Gabriel's enemy. Though he suspects his aunt is playing matchmaker when she insists Gabriel squire Thea around during the Little Season, he goes along, determined to use her to his own benefit. But he doesn't count on falling in love with the smart, witty, and refreshing beauty.

Thea has left America for a fresh start. Anxious to be out of her disapproving stepfather's home, she's come to England hoping to find a suitable husband and start living her own life. But Thea has ulterior motives of her own where the Nevilles are concerned, and the infuriating yet sinfully handsome Gabriel Sinclair has no part in her plans. But as she spends more time in his company, she comes to know the real man beneath the unaffected facade, and though she believes any relationship with him can only end in heartache, she cannot help but long to revel in it, if only for a little while. When Thea and Gabriel discover each other's secrets and that they've been using each other for their own benefit and to each other's detriment, will they be able to put old grudges aside and reach for a happiness they never imagined could be theirs? Or will their pride and desire for revenge tear them apart?

While I loved the setup, the characters, and the author's style, my feelings on this book can be summed up in one line from an Elvis song: "A little less conversation, a little more action." (And you'll have that stuck in your head for the rest of the day now, won't you? I know I will!) While the flirtatious banter between Gabriel and Thea is sparkling and at times downright hilarious, at some point, you need to shut up and just do it already. Their wordy foreplay carried on too long, in my opinion, and that caused the pacing to suffer. And the subplot involving the "drama" with Gabriel's aunt and uncle (he thinks he's dying; she's dying to resume their sex life) just went on and on . . . and on. While some of it was entertaining, it took too much time away from our hero and heroine. This book could have been shortened by at least thirty pages and made a faster, more focused read. But I enjoyed it enough to move on to book two, A Scandalous Proposal, featuring Gabriel's friend, the intriguing Cooper Townsend. I'm looking forward to more wit and intrigue; I'll just be hoping for a quicker pace and more focus on the romance.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars out of 5

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