Top positive review
4.0 out of 5 stars4 total overhaul of a rake stars
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on January 12, 2021
Benedict Chatham is the recent inheritor of the title Marquess of Rutherford complete with an impoverished estate. He is also a wastrel, philanderer, drunkard, and manwh@re, and he is unapologetic about all of it. In fact, he has found that his impressive skills in the bedroom translate to a way to fund his expensive taste in whiskey habit and his lease at the gaming hell establishment he also regularly frequents. But upon inheriting his new title, he also assumed a significant amount of debt - the likes of which he cannot see how he will dig out from under. All estates and items that are unentailed are being seized, and he has been given his walking papers by the proprietor of the gaming hell. In short, the womanizing boozer is out of options and ripe for the kind of proposition a wealthy American businessman approaches him with.
Charlotte Lancaster is a half English/half American awkward anomaly resignedly preparing for a fifth season per her father's firm instruction that she marry a man with a title. Nothing less than a duke, marquess, or earl will do for him, and those are not only in short supply, but after four years of being soundly rejected by suitors for being too tall, too freckled, too American, too red-headed (terribly unfashionable after all), she has little hope that she will make a match that satisfies her father's requirements. Besides, she doesn't wish to marry and be the wife to a member of the ton - she has too many plans for her own future. She is her father's daughter, and she plans to forge her own business in America - all she needs is for her father to realize that his demands cannot be met and she will be free. When he summons her with an urgent request, she is certain it is to tell her that he has given up... but when he tells her she must wed the man he just made a devil's bargain with, she is stunned and disgusted. The man he wants her to wed is a known degenerate, after all. But the terms do allow an out for Charlotte: if after one year of cohabiting, they would be permitted to live separately. Charlotte recognizes that arguing with her father is futile as he always gets what he wants, and what is a year to have to wait after all compared to the future she has wanted for so l0ng?
Chatham is floored when Charlotte's father lays out his terms: remain sober for 1 year, remain faithful, and live with his daughter, and he will receive 100,000 pounds - a veritable fortune that would set him up for life in whatever way he chooses to live it. If he is able to impregnate his wife within 2 years and provide an heir, he receives 200,000. This is not a deal he can afford to pass up, so he accepts. Besides, Charlotte Lancaster has always intrigued him, so living with her for a year could prove interesting. But the reality proves to be very different from the expectations each of them bring to their "one year term," and neither can credit the reasons they seem to mesh so well. Can Chatham remain faithful and sober long enough to allow them to forge a future together? Will they wish to make it a more permanent arrangement? And, if so, can Charlotte abandon the dreams she has held tightly to for so many years?
What I liked:
--- Charlotte was a pistol - she knew what she wanted and how to get it and didn't apologize for being ambitious
--- Transformation of both characters was fun to watch unfold
--- Realistic struggles for that time period and the characters; the depiction of Chatham's substance abuse and its fallout/consequences was poignant and heartbreaking at times but in a way that felt genuine
--- Amusing h moments where her intellect tries to reconcile putting things into practice
--- Preview into the next book (which made me excited to get my hands on!)
--- STEAMY GOODNESS (oh my!)
What I didn't like as much:
--- It was difficult to like and find Chatham sympathetic - I eventually got there, though
--- Benedict's transformation was a little fast (both his physical and character changes) to be completely realistic
--- I didn't love how critical of herself Charlotte was even after being assured she was desirable
--- Miscommunication angst
Overall, a good rake reformation for the right woman story with some delicious steamy goodness along the way!
Plot --- 4/5
Main Characters --- 4/5
Supporting Cast --- 4/5
Steam Level* --- 4/5
Violence --- none that I can recall
Language --- not egregious
POV --- 3rd
*Note that steam level is not a rating so much as a how hot was it: 0/5 - clean; 1/5 - mild (nothing descriptive); 2/5 - 3rd base action/1 home run; 3/5 - now we're getting somewhere (a couple of full-on steamy scenes); 4/5 - yes please! (erotica territory); 5/5 - they did EVERYTHING in this one, y'all