Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91708-6
Historical Romance, 2016
The Unexpected Marriage of Gabriel Stone, by all accounts, is the final book in Louise Allen’s Lords of Disgrace series. This is the “Earth” dude’s story, after all the other three “Elementals” have had their stories. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the author won’t pull out more dudes with quasi-elemental nicknames in the future if we all buy the books by the wazoo. Like, the Marquess of DeSaliva, or maybe the Duke of Turdbowl.
Gabriel Stone, the Earl of Edenbridge, is stuck in everyone’s favorite story: the heroine mortgaging her vagina to save a family member from a useless daddy’s nonsense. Caroline Holm’s father lost a property that she knows her brother will really, really, really want, and because she must take care of him, she goes off to Gabriel to tell him that she’d spread them if he lets her have the deed back. She’s a virgin, she tells him, because guys dig those things and you can thank me for having the good sense and taste to stop myself from making an ISIS joke here. Gabriel may have a “shocking” reputation, and he’s certainly tempted to take what Caroline is offering, but nah, he’s a gentleman at heart so he’d take an IOU instead. Not that he plans to collect, of course.
That would be the end of the story if Caroline isn’t such an dunderhead that she realizes, after she’s had the deed, that someone needs to manage that property over the next few years, as her brother isn’t going to be the one to do that. So back to Gabriel she goes. Oh, and her father decides to marry her off to some predictable nasty, brutal dude, so guess who has to come to her rescue again. I tell you, if Gabriel is a less scrupulous dude, she’d quickly run out of body orifices to mortgage at his bank. As for Gabriel, his first instincts aren’t to be a knight in shining armor – he likes to think that he’s a bad boy – but he’s soon falling under the sexy mojo of Caroline’s self-proclaimed “plain looks”.
Now, The Unexpected Marriage of Gabriel Stone is far more polished and well-written than the usual one-oogie stinker, but this one drives me nuts because, at the end of the day, it is another story powered by the heroine’s imbecilic brainpower and the hero coming to her rescue. Caroline goes all out to save her brother, but her plans are all poorly thought out and half-baked that the only reason she gets a happy ending is because her father happened to lose a property to the right guy. And yet, when it comes to saving herself, she’s all passive and resigned to being a martyr. It’s crazy. If she doesn’t want to get married to that brutal thug – and I don’t blame her in this instance – why not become Gabriel’s mistress then and get what she can out of him during her tenure? It’s not like she wants to become a respectable lady, judging from her actions here – she’d be ruined either way, so why not choose the route that can afford her some degree of financial security?
Once she’s had Gabriel, she transforms into a tart know-it-all who bosses everyone around. Unfortunately, her ability to think and plot doesn’t improve, so this is just another way for the author to seriously get on my nerves using that wretch of a heroine. There is no middle ground for Caroline. It’s either her way or else, and all her ways lead to a very dark place of deplorable stupidity.
Gabriel is more of a standard sort of hero. But really, anything would look good when paired to that terminally annoying Caroline – I only hope for his sake that her dunderhead nature isn’t some kind of sexually transmitted disease, and for her kids’ sake, it isn’t inheritable either.
Maybe I’d like this one better if I read it “stoned”… nah, I doubt it.