Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 0-8217-7931-1
Historical Romance, 2006
What a Gentleman Wants has nothing to do with What a Woman Needs – now that is what I call a loaded statement, heh – despite the same title structure. This is clearly the start of a new series.
The plot can be a bit tortuous so please bear with me. We have a pair of twins, Marcus and David Reece. Marcus, the older brother, is the very responsible Duke of Exeter, while David is the never-do-well type who forces Marcus to constantly chase after him and clean up his mess. Shortly after the story opens, Marcus banishes David to the country estate at Middleborough after cleaning up his latest mess. David encounters the vicar’s widow, Hannah Preston, during his “vacation” and strikes up a genuine friendship with her, much to his pleasant surprise. As the new vicar is taking up his position and Hannah has to move herself and her young daughter out of the vicarage. This is not a happy situation for Hannah because she has no option but to return to her unpleasant father’s house. David decides to propose a marriage of convenience so that he can help his new friend and her daughter. David will always be David, however, so at the last moment, he has this wicked idea and signs his brother’s name on the marriage certificate.
You can imagine Marcus’s shock when Hannah shows up with her daughter at his London doorstep shortly after. David has disappeared shortly after the marriage ceremony. Hannah, understandably, assumes at first that Marcus is David. She has no idea who David really is, so she’s in for a shock when she learns that not only is David the duke’s brother, she’s now Marcus’ wife. David has announced the wedding in the papers, so Marcus decides eventually that he may as well keep Hannah around as the wife in name only so that he doesn’t have to answer awkward questions. He has better things to do at the moment: he is investigating a counterfeit ring that may or may not involve David.
The story sounds pretty busy, but it is actually a very slowly paced one instead. That is the biggest and most significant problem with this story – very little progress in the story line is made throughout the middle part of the story. The same conversations are rehashed, similar situations occur repeatedly, and the characters go through the same psychoanalyzing frequently. As a result, What a Gentleman Wants is very easy to put down and forget. The suspense subplot is also too obvious for my liking.
The characters are fine in their own right, with Hannah being a pragmatic and sensible heroine that is quite rare in the genre, but they display surprisingly little sexual tension here. They seem more interested in picking each other’s brain instead of tearing their clothes off and make hot monkey love. I find this muted sexual tension surprising considering how the sexual tension in the author’s later books can get so thick that one can cut it with a knife. In this story, the cheerleading secondary characters such as Marcus’ mother and sister seem more excited about those two getting together when I compare their reactions to those of Marcus and Hannah.
All things considered, this one has all the ingredients to become a very good read, but alas, the sluggish pacing makes it a rather dull read instead.