Monday, July 11, 2011

Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught

Book Description:


The Countess of Havenhurst possessed a rare gentleness and fierce courage to match her exquisite beauty. But her reputation is shattered when she is discovered in the arms of Ian Thornton, a notorious gambler and social outcast.


A dangerously handsome man of secret wealth and mysterious lineage, his voyage to Elizabeth's heart is fraught with intrigue, scandal, and a venomous revenge.

Destined for each other, yet wary of each other's motives, Elizabeth and Ian engage in a dance of suspicion and passion that tests the very soul of their star-crossed love. As a twisting path of secrets takes them from London's drawing rooms to the mysterious Scottish Highlands, Elizabeth must learn the truth: is Ian merely a ruthless fortune hunter at heart?

Another winner by McNaught, but I'm sad I've read all of her historicals now! *pout*

Two years after a fateful weekend party in the country, can Elizabeth Cameron regain her reputation after it's been ruined by an innocent flirtation with the notorious "you are no gentleman, sir!" Ian Thornton?   Now, desperate to avoid a disastrous marriage that her uncle is determined to arrange for her, can Ian and Elizabeth find their way back to each other?  How can they clear the air and erase the big misunderstanding that jeopardizes their future together forever?

Two years earlier, Elizabeth Cameron was the belle of the London season.  Her brother, who was nearly bankrupt with debts wanted her to make a sparkling marriage to a rich and titled gentleman.  Just as her engagement to one of the most eligible men in London is about to be announced, disaster strikes.  She is caught with Ian Thornton, a notorious gambler, reminiscent of another favorite hero of mine, Rhett Butler.   When Ian is accused of cheating at cards, Elizabeth jumps into the fray and saves him from disgrace.  Not that he needed her help, but it throws them together that weekend.   Ian is instantly smitten with Elizabeth and impulsively proposes marriage to her.  Thrown off balance, she neglects to tell him she's already betrothed.  He's angry and hurt later when he finds out she's not free to marry.  He basically lost his head over her and vows to never do it again with anyone.  Due to the scheming machinations of a jealous friend, Ian and Elizabeth are caught together in a compromising (but innocent) situation.  Even though he's angry with Elizabeth, he fights a duel with Elizabeth's brother.  Ian is shot because her brother tried to kill him, even though Ian did the honorable thing and deloped.  After the duel, Ian leaves the country on business and hopes to never have anything more to do with Elizabeth ever again!

Little does he know that Elizabeth's reputation is in tatters.  Her engagement is off and she's been relegated to the country for two years.  Trying to keep her estate up and running, money is scarce and her dastardly brother is nowhere to be found.  In a last ditch effort, Elizabeth's uncle has devised a plan to marry her off to the highest bidder.  Mistakenly, he sends an invitation to Ian who is now incredibly rich and suddenly accepted by the ton.  (It helps he's also the grandson of a duke even though Ian refuses to acknowledge the connection).   Ian dismisses the invitation, insulted by it.  But, his secretary responds to it by accident and so sets the wheels in motion - Elizabeth and Ian become reunited at his little cottage in the Scottish Highlands.

From this point on the story is delightful.  The two of them are stuck together and the sparks fly.  Both are put out by their circumstances but it forces them to address the issue that they were unaccountably attracted to one another two years ago.  Can they make a go for it now?  Of course, it's not that easy.  Ian is affianced to a respectable young lady and there are all sorts of complications including a sensational appearance at a ball where Ian and his grandfather (the duke) save the day! I simply loved it!

I'm leaving tons out, but this is a great story with plenty of ups and downs.  Ian is not as hard hearted as some of McNaught's previous heroes.  He's not quite as forbidding and he's half Scottish. :)  For all intents and purposes, he is a self made man who has become successful and wealthy, but he has a soft spot when it comes to the sadness of what happened to his parents (and his dog!)  In many respects he is your classic McNaught hero, but slightly toned down.  Speaking of heroes, I was pleased to see some references to some of her past heroes, and a reprise of the characters from Something Wonderful

I'm sorry to finish this book, since it's the last of McNaught's historicals for me, but I'm eager to try out some of her contemporaries.  In the meantime, can anyone recommend another historical author for me that's similar to McNaught and her oh so over the top alpha heroes?  As much as they can be simply awful at times to their heroines, they are my favorites, Whitney, My Love, in particular.  Her books are roller coaster rides, full of drama and misunderstandings.  When under the impression they've been wronged, her heroes have an annoying tendency to cut the women in their lives out, with no chance of forgiveness or explanation!  But I still love them to death!  I must be some kind of literary masochist!  If someone asked me what author has the best heroes, I'd probably say McNaught. 

If you haven't tried her yet, trust me, you're missing out on some great reading.  Get thee to a bookstore - quick!



Rowena said...

I absolutely love this book. Ian is so full of awesome (even if he was being a butthead throughout the book) but still, at the end when he tells Elizabeth, "I'm so damned sorry"


Love it!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Rowena, yes I was waiting for that moment, for him to tell her that too! The big misunderstanding, it certainly took him long enough to figure it out! (but that's how it always is with JM's heroes!)

Iris said...

I loveee her historicals too! i wish she'd write more - have you read em all?

There's another author I like - Gaelen Foley, her Knight series is great, Lord of Fire being my Favourite!!

Also Mary Balogh, but I think ur familiar with her? The Bedwyn siblings make a nice series.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Iris, thanks for the tip on the Knight series, I'll check it out! Yes, I know the Bedwyn's. I'm working my way through that brood at the moment (I still have to review one of them!)

Iris said...

=D great! i cant believe u read so much! i came across ur blog yesterday - and since then i hav been figuring out how u manage to do it all!

i love to read! in fact, if it were up to me,tht's the only thing i'd do!

wow! m super excited to have found someone who reads so much! n so inspired too!

Do read Lord of Fire - i loveee it! Lucien Knight is one of my favourite heroes! althgh its the 2nd book in the series, first being the Duke.

let me knw wat u think! =)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Iris, I wish I could read all day too! (too bad I have a job that prevents me!) I review everything I read, so I'll be sure to review GF's books after I read them. I've heard a lot about her but just had never read one of them before.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I know I read this one some time ago, but I think I need to re-read it - a refresher course on Judith McNaught's historicals. I remember this one was very good.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Julia - I think they're all good! There is something about her stories, they're so dramatic! I wonder if her contemps have the same impact. She will definitely be a re-read author for me.

Joanne said...

I thought Ian was one of her best heroes (haven't read them all yet, though). And the ending of this one....with the dog....ahhh! So touching. You're right -- all of her books are hits - no misses with her historicals.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Joanne - yes, the dog got me... aww.

Have you read any of her contemporaries yet? I wonder if they have the same level of emotional intensity that I would say categorizes her historicals. That alone makes them stand out from the other romantic historicals I've read and makes them especially memorable.

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