This should have been a five star. It was soooo close. Until the last 20%.
Basically the heroine does something TSTL at the end and we have to wallow in that manufactured nonsense for the rest of the book. Then the ending comes abruptly, we have a sweet little reconciliation and it's over. No epilogue or nuthin'. Boo!
Harry Pye and Georgina "George" Maitland are a nice, unique couple. He's her land steward and she's the sister of an earl who's aunt left her everything she owned. So she's got more than one estate and mountains of money. Harry grew up the son of the gamekeeper of the neighboring estate and there's all kinds of disturbing and awful history there. She's quirky, and he's quiet. Good stuff.
They can't help their attraction for one another and eventually they fall into bed where they belong. And door, and desk and ... you get the idea.
Someone has been poisoning the sheep from the Granville estate -- the crazy, evil neighbor with a very bad history with Harry -- and they're all pointing the finger at our hero. He's got to try to prove himself innocent while the lord of the estate hates him enough to demand his arrest regardless of evidence. Lotta stress.
It was so good for so long. That's what makes it a four star. So good. I had a very hard time putting it down.
But the moment Georgina makes her idiot move and then compounds it against all advice, she lost me. I decided Harry could never trust her not to be stupid and he should find someone else. The whole reason this Big Mis didn't work at all is because the entire book we've been shown a George who is intuitive, smart, and not at all prone to overreacting.
This is why the whole ending was completely manufactured and inorganic. It was an effort, it seems, to bring de Raaf (The Raven Prince) and Iddesleigh (The Serpent Prince) into the story and it was heavy-handed at best. It really made me mad.
I guess I'm not in a tolerant mood these days, but a writer who's better simply should be
better than to make something up, throwing character development to the wind, just to maneuver everyone to that place. It can be done with more finesse. In fact, if the first 80% of the book hadn't been so good, the shoddy ending wouldn't have been so annoying. Not that I want Hoyt to start being shoddy from page one, but let's at least try to live up to our abilities, shall we?