Friday, May 4, 2012

Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas

Book Description:
When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She’s exactly what he’s been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage.

And then she disappears without a trace…

For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…

Warning: Spoilers ahead

I'm torn.  There was much I loved about this new book by Sherry Thomas, the first of her new trilogy.  She's probably my favorite romance author and I've waited with baited breath for this book to come out.  I adored the fact that it's reminiscent of Thomas' first two books, both of which are my absolute favorites with the following type of scenario:  proud aristocratic gentleman is felled by the woman he falls in love with when he finds out she's been lying to him all along.  As a result, much happens with plenty of emotional fallout.  Beguiling the Beauty has this same type of scenario, but I was a bit uncomfortable with the theme of deception in this case because I felt it was carried out a bit too far and began to enter the realm of "suspension of disbelief".  The heroine, Venetia, carries out an outlandish deception on Christian, the Duke of Lexington all in the name of vengeance.  I found it implausible that two people can carry on an affair while one of them never shows their face.  Not even a little peek when she's sleeping?  It made me uncomfortable that Venetia continued with the deception even when she was falling in love with him.  I didn't like it and I wanted it to stop.  It gave me the same feeling one has while waiting for a train wreck to happen.  But I get ahead of myself...

While crossing the Atlantic on board a steamer, Christian, the Duke of Lexington is a man who has fallen deeply in love with a mysterious German passenger that wears a veil and refuses to allow him to see her face. Lo and behold without his knowing it, she is the woman he has loved from afar for the past ten years, the beautiful Mrs.Venetia Easterbrook. Venetia has backed herself into a corner by posing as the German veiled baroness, never thinking she'll actually fall in love with Christian! Why is she doing this in the first place?  She's punishing him for something awful he said about her in a lecture at Harvard.  But it backfires and instead she falls in love with him while carrying on a torrid affair on board the ship from New York to England.   As their affair escalates they share secrets with one another, pillow talk moments interspersed between their passionate and unlimited carefree days and nights in bed.  Venetia tells him about herself - her real self, despite her cover as the German baroness.  He reciprocates and opens up to her during one of these moments, revealing the truth about his obsession with "Mrs. Easterbrook" over the years.  Of course, he thinks he's telling this all to the baroness.  The irony is overwhelming.  He loved her from afar due to her unparalleled beauty and here she is with him wearing a veil, and he's fallen in love with her - again!  You know this is not going to turn out well.  Poor Venetia is stuck.  If she shows him her face, he'll hate her and if she disappears from him forever, he'll still hate her for he has the worst opinion of Mrs. Easterbrook, thinking she's a vain and greedy gold digger who cares only for jewels.  It's complicated.  I did feel badly for him before he finds out the truth when she refuses to meet him in London (as the baroness).  As expected, when he finds out about who she really is and how she deliberately deceived him - well, it's too late and she's convinced he'll never forgive her. But it doesn't end there...

Without giving away too much of the plot, due to a certain turn of events in the later part of the book, Venetia and Christian must marry, but it is a dutiful marriage in name only.  By this point, both are in love with the other, yet Christian is so hurt by Venetia's deception he cannot give in, despite the fact she is his wife now, something he has longed for over the past ten years.  A sad state of affairs that should have tugged at my heart strings - yet it didn't. Even though I found it nearly impossible to put this book down, there was something missing from the romance between Christian and Venetia.  The fact they fell in love under a disguise prevented the same emotional wallop as her first two books and I was not entirely sympathetic to their problem even after Christian finds out who she is.  If only she had not kept up the stupid deception!   I blame Venetia mostly, but at the same time, Christian should have never opened his big mouth at the lecture which set everything in motion.  Because of their mistakes the quote below sums up the crux of their problem on their wedding day, they made their bed and now they're going to have to sleep in it:
The worst thing about this forced nuptial was that they had been their true selves on the Rhodesia.  And yet the two people tying the knot today were but their facades, the Great Beauty and the haughty, unfeeling duke.

Would she ever see his true self again? And would she ever dare let him see hers?
Despite some reservations I still loved this book, pre-ordering it on kindle and reading it in the middle of night as soon as it downloaded.  It is Sherry Thomas after all and an auto-buy for me.  Her writing is eloquent and superb, research is tops, descriptions are spot on, everything is as it should be in an historical novel.  I consider her one of THE best romance authors out there today, but I do feel she held back a bit with Beguiling the Beauty emotionally.  Perhaps getting us ready for her next book in the series?  I can't wait!


P.S. If this is your first go around with Sherry Thomas, do yourself a favor and read her back list starting with Private Arrangements, you won't be sorry!  It's packs a punch, and you'll see how the Tremaine's who make a few cameos in Beguiling the Beauty, have their happily ever after as well.


The_Book_Queen said...

Great review--I don't believe I've read any of Sherry's books, but I will be putting them all on my list now! :)


Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

TBQ - You don't know what you're missing, buy Private Arrangements NOW and start reading!

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

ooooh, thanks for the fantastic review! i want to read this asap!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Carrie, I'll be interested in what you think of it!

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