Wow. My feelings about this book are actually pretty complicated.
First, I hated the heroine for fully 85% of the book. Hated her. She was completely unreasonable and nasty. Totally selfish and childish. Disdainful and ... biggest sin for a heroine in Beanbag Love World ... emasculating. Oh no, missy. Big mistake.
The hero, Michael Tremayne, Marquess of Falconridge, is impoverished, desperate and absolutely heartbreaking. He's got a vibe that puts people off, but it's mainly because he's so afraid of being rejected in life that he's got walls ten yards thick. He's not exactly rude, but he's not exactly charming either. He also has a big secret he's keeping that, while it doesn't seem damning in our time, was a big deal back then. So, he's got some baggage.
Our heroine, Kate, is an American heiress who has her own secrets. How in the world she thinks to sit in judgment of anyone else is beyond me. But one major thing about her that isn't under wraps is that she was in love once before and her family broke that relationship to pieces, causing her to turn her young, first love into an event of legendary status. Naturally, it's not deserving of the pedestal, but she's got herself to think about so don't distract her!
In any case, she resents our dear Michael and treats him pretty much like a dog. Her father has given her control of all the money, with full agreement from Michael, and she uses it with relish. If he doesn't want to do exactly what she wants, she's apt to say 'I might just stop the money flowing', which is pretty freakin' weak since he's got to come to her for every red cent anyway.
I hear you talking amongst yourselves. "Four stars, though, Beanbag? What's up with that?"
The final fifteen percent of the book is home to some of the finest and most well-deserved heroine-groveling I've ever read. Exquisite.
Honestly, the whole time I was reading it, I was near tears for Michael's fate. To be shackled to this nasty-bloomers hagette for life seemed just too cruel.
And also, to be even more honest, I would have loved to see more scenes of them 'accidentally' connecting. There were a few moments, but I love when the H/h find they've been enjoying each other's company for a while without realizing it, because -- of course -- they're meant to be together. But I need to see that happen on screen, as it were.
This book is a tough read in spots, particularly while a reader is mentally dissolving the heroine in toxic sludge, but also when we see glimpses of Michael's back story and his current feelings about himself and his situation. It's engrossing, even if it's difficult and, even with my Kate-hatred, I couldn't put the darn thing down. Michael just got into my brain and I needed to make sure he'd be okay.
All that said, the end is worth the trip, IMO.
PS: To those who know my hatred for Jo Beverley's Portia Malloren (Tempting Fortune), I can't tell you how much I wish she'd spent a good fifteen percent of the book groveling. She might have been redeemed.