Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Princess & the Pea by Victoria Alexander

This one started sooo slow I thought for sure I was going to have to dump it, but then something happened around page 85 (I give my books 100 pages to prove themselves and this one barely made the mark), the story took a turn such that it became a page turner, at least for a while. How did that happen??

Cecily White is an American Heiress that lives in Chicago. Her friend had recently been in London and returned to Chicago heartbroken because the Earl of Greystone had lead her on and then dismissed her. Cece, feeling indignant for her friend, convinces her parents to take her to London to find a husband but in truth the independent minded Cece plans to attract the Earl and break his heart. When she and her family arrive in London they stay at a family friends house where she meets Jared Greyson who she believes is an impoverished inventor who dreams of creating a fleet of cars.

Jared Grayson is the Earl of Greystone and he has fallen head over heels for the daughter of the American butcher that is staying at his friend Quentin's house. When he meets Cecily White he keeps his title to himself but his title is a big roadblock for the life he would like to lead with Cece. He would like to be the man Cece believes him to be but with his title he also inherited many responsibilities that cannot be pushed aside, and to meet those responsibilities he needs to marry an heiress. He does what he has to do and breaks things off with Cece and returns to his pursuit of an heiress.

The book then moves into the more interesting phase in which Jared discovers Cece is in fact an heiress and tries to persuade her into marrying him. The following is an excerpt of the moment in Jared realizes that he can have his cake and eat it too:

"Good Lord, Cece" Discovery rang in Jared's voice. "I just realized what this means."

She lifted her head and gazed curiously in his midnight eyes. "What 'what' means?"

"The fact that you are an heiress" Excitement colored his words. "Don't you see. This means we can be married. I love you and you have money. It's perfect"

Cece eyed him cautiously. "Explain that phrase, 'it's perfect.'"

"I need to marry an heiress. You are heir to an impressive fortune." Jared's enthusiasm grew and so did her outrage. "The beauty of it is, I've fallen in love with you. This will not be the least bit distasteful after all."

He shook his head and expelled a sigh of relief. "I can't tell you how much better I feel about everything now. An heiress and you in the bargain. It's bloddy marvelous."

"Is it?" she said quietly.

She stepped away from him and primly folded her hands together. "Let me make quite sure I understand this as well as you seem to. First, you could not marry me when it appearsed I did not have, as you so charmingly put it, an impressive fortune. Is that correct?"

Confusion crossed his face. "Well, yes, but -- "

"When you believed I was not an heiress, even though you admit you love me, it was quite all right to leave me clutching a terse -- and badly written, I might add - note, my heart broken and my life in ruins."

"It was not badly written," he said with indignation.

"Hah! And now that you know my true financial status..." She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Just how broke are you?"

"We are not broke," he said defensively. "But the cost of maintaining my mother's home, my townhouse, Graystone castle-" his tone brightened-"did you know I have a castle?"

"Cold, ugly and out-of-date, no doubt."

Jared shrugged. "Well, we needn't spend much time there."

She stared with disbelief. "What on earth makes you think I'll marry you now?"

He gazed at her in genuine bewilderment. "I love you. I don't see the difficulty."

"A man should not marry for money. It's disgusting and ill-bred."

"Not in my country," he said staunchly.

"Well, no marriage of mine will be based on money."

"Of course not." Relief crossed his face. "Ours will be based on love."

"Ours will be based on nothing!"

As you can see, Jared is not the brightest bulb in the pack, he is a bit dense and as the story continues it made me wonder what, other than the fact that he was handsome and had a title would attract any woman to him, not the least Cece who is smart and ambitious and has her sh*t together. On top of Jared being a bit dense, Cece had to deal with her in-laws

Jared's mother, Olivia, wants the best for her son and has devises several tests that Cece must pass before she gives her blessing to the match. Since Jared has prohibited her to interfere, she has to figure out ways to put these tests in Cece's way without showing her hand. I kept wondering why Ms. Alexander didn't let Jared inherit a bit of his mother's wit.

Honestly, I really thought the book would recover after the couple meets as Earl and heiress but the book kept falling apart. From the secondary story line where Cece's mother is brought face to face with an old lover who wants her to abandon her family, divorce her husband and run away with him, to Olivia picking up her life just to consider marrying a low life. And the last conflict could have been dropped altogether, I saw it as it was, a manipulation from the author to give the book a kick. Jared giving up his title? What about the people that depend on him, which is why he needed to marry an heiress to start off with.

The book had it's moments and just to watch Cece out wit her future mother-in-law was worth finishing the book.

Grade: D+


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