Private Arrangements, by Sherry Thomas

This is not the usual kind of book that I review on this website, viagra sale and I feel I must disclose that I won this book in a contest on Dear Author. The condition of the winning is that I read it and promote it somehow on its release date, story which is today. The conditions, of course, didn’t state that I had to like the book, or that I had to give it a good review, but cheerfully, I liked it quite a bit. This is Ms. Thomas’s first release, and I am quite looking forward to the next.

The setting is 1893, in England. Lord and Lady Tremaine have been estranged for ten years, but he has returned home because she wants a divorce. For some reason he cannot yet name, Lord Tremaine is not quite ready to let his wife go without a — well, a discussion at least. This is Victorian England, of course.

I know that’s a bit of a short discussion of the plot, but I think I’ve hit all the high points. For those of you who do not normally read historical romance novels, I would like to inform you that if I intimate that the hero and the heroine manage to get together by the end, it should not be news. The story is not about the ending, but the journey.

First and foremost, I’d like to discuss Thomas’s writing. From the first page, it was pretty obvious that she was quite skilled. From the first page, we get lines like this: “Unhappy marriages were, of course, even more vulgar [than happy marriages], on a par with Mrs. Jeffries’s special contraption that spanked forty bottoms at once: unspeakable, for half the uppercrust had experienced it firsthand.” (p. 1) That wit and wordsmithing occurs the entire way through the book, but not so much as to take away from the emotional impact of the novel. Her balance between emotional revelations and bon mots is well-done.

The relationship between Lord and Lady Tremaine is very passionate: passionate loathing in the beginning, which was naturally a cover for the passionate loving. Their path from distrust to amnesty to love is not easy, nor straight. There is betrayal and misunderstandings to overcome, and each does not easily forgive.

Lady Tremaine (who is named Philippa Gilberte and called Gigi for most of the book) was my favorite character; her family fortune comes from trade, so she is considered a bit vulgar prior to her marriage. When she married Lord Tremaine, it was for love, but the financial aspect was there: he was destitute. While it doesn’t make much of a difference later on, Gigi is still mercenary, hard-nosed, and possessed of a great deal of financial acumen. Gigi’s mother, Mrs. Victoria Rowland, was my second-favorite character; as it turned out, she was a self-taught expert in the classics. Other than that, she was a vicious social climber and had been training her daughter to catch a duke from an early age. A bit incongruous, no?

As the book started, I wondered precisely what would make Victorian England different from the usual setting of Regency England, and the answer was automobiles. Herr Benz was mentioned a few times; Gigi owned several factories and was interested in making engines for horseless carriages. One scene even has Lord Tremaine drawing out a design for a better internal combustion engine. There wasn’t much discussion of Victorian fashion and how precisely it deviated from previous eras, and Queen Victoria herself was only mentioned a few times, but the automobiles were a definite touch of realism.

The one problem I had with the book was the fact that, early on, I had the suspicion that I’d read the book before. Well, I hadn’t, quite, but there is a book with a couple odd similarities to this one: Eloisa James’s Duchess in Love. In that book, a duke comes home after ten years because his estranged wife has requested a divorce as well, to marry another man. Also, both male leads are named Camden. The dukes (well, Camden Tremaine is heir to a duke) are both extraordinary at something less than understood by society, but one is a sculptor and the other is an engineer. Other than that, the books have very little in common. The ‘other men’ are quite different (other than both being ‘safe’); the duchesses are very different. The tones of the books are very different as well; James tends to write much more lighthearted novels with poignant moments. Thomas’s novel is much more intense. The situation is made even more odd by the fact that Eloisa James gave a quote for the cover of the novel (actually, the stepback).

Overall, it’s an amazing first novel and an exemplary example of the genre — by which I mean if someone had not read any historical romance and wanted to start somewhere, I would include this in the short list. There is sex, definitely, and it’s not always happy flowers and rainbows sex, but it’s not violent. I wouldn’t recommend this book to children or YAs, obviously, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romance novels, especially ones with intense emotional stories that still manage to have wit and style. 4.5/5 stars.

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