Friday, April 22, 2016

Match of the Century - Cathy Maxwell (Avon - Nov 2015)

Series: Marrying the Duke (Book 1)

Wedding bells are ringing… until the return of a rake throws a bride's plans -- and heart -- into a tailspin

Every debutante aspires to snag a duke. Elin Morris just happens to have had one reserved since birth. But postponements of her marriage to London's most powerful peer give Elin time to wonder how she will marry Gavin Baynton when she cannot forget his brother, Benedict.

Already exasperated at being yanked from the military to meet "family obligations," now Ben must suffer watching his arrogant sibling squire the only woman he has ever loved. Joining the army saved Ben from sinking into bitterness, but seeing Elin again takes him back to the day they surrendered to their intoxicating desire.

As the wedding draws near, Elin tries to push Ben far from her thoughts. When danger brings them together, there is no denying their feelings. But can Elin choose love over duty...?

Good book with an unusual set of circumstances for the romance. Elin has been promised to Gavin, Duke of Baynton since she was born, a match arranged by their parents. Circumstances have caused several postponements of the marriage, but the time has finally arrived. But Elin isn't looking forward to the marriage, as she doesn't know him that well, plus she can't forget her feelings for Gavin's younger brother Ben.

Ben had been sent off to the military after it was discovered that he and Elin had been indiscreet together. Though he hadn't forgotten her, army life suited him and he was well on the way to an excellent career. Then his brother pulled strings, ending Ben's military career and forcing him home to take up family duties. Seeing Elin again reminds him of what he's lost, and how much he wants her back.

Ben's arrival coincides with the ball meant to announce Elin and Gavin's engagement. Harsh words are exchanged between Gavin and Ben, before tragedy brings the ball to an abrupt end. Furious with his brother, Ben disappears, while Elin tries to come to grips with his reappearance and her own feelings. 

The three main characters, Gavin, Ben and Elin, were all complex individuals. At first I really didn't like Gavin at all. He seems cold and arrogant, more interested in appearances and his political work than in Elin. He was also unsympathetic to Ben's distress at losing his career. With Ben, I understood his fury at having his life interrupted. He knew that Elin was meant for his brother and the army kept him away so that he didn't have to face it. His disappearance after the confrontation seemed to be a rather over-the-top version of running away from home because he didn't like something, rather than stay and fight for what he wanted. Meanwhile, Elin knows that Gavin isn't what she wants. the life she'll have with him is one that makes her uncomfortable, but she sees no way out of it until Ben returns. But can she find a way to get what she wants without causing harm to others?

When the wedding is rescheduled and Elin called back to London for it, trouble finds her. On the road to London, her coach is attacked and she narrowly escapes being killed. Running from her pursuers, she luckily stumbles upon Ben, who has taken up with some local men. Ben is determined to protect her, and as they run from danger, their previous feelings return. I liked the way they finally talked about what had happened eight years earlier, and accepted that both had been young and naive. Older now, they know there are obstacles to being together, but they are determined to find a way. 

However, being found together by Gavin puts them both in an awkward position until Elin can find a way to end her engagement. Gavin seems willfully blind to the sparks between them, seeing only that Elin would be perfect as his bride. It is also pointed out to Ben that he really has nothing to offer Elin, and he realizes that he has to make some changes if he wants to get the girl. I liked seeing him take charge of his life, and finally start acting like the man he should be. Meanwhile, Elin is worried about her father's health, and the effect breaking her engagement could have on him.

While all of this is going on, both Ben and Gavin are trying to figure out who is trying to kill Elin and why. Joining forces also gives them the opportunity to overcome the animosity that has been present between them since they were children. I did like seeing them actually begin to listen to each other, though they still had moments when old habits resurface. But they worked together beautifully when Elin was once again in danger. I have to say that the person behind the murder attempts was not a surprise, as I figured out pretty early who it was. 

I loved the resolution of the love triangle, though I did feel rather sorry for Gavin. I thought he showed a lot of class as he did the right thing and let Elin go. I am looking forward to seeing him get his own story and hope that he gets someone who will shake him up a little. The epilogue was a great touch to bring it all together.

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