Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Spinster's Guide to Scandalous Behavior - Jennifer McQuiston (Avon - Nov 2015)

Series: Seduction Diaries (Book 2)

A mysterious journal may provide a potential spinster with instruction -- or lead her to her heart's desire

Free-spirited Lucy Westmore isn't yet a spinster, although she fully intends to be. Fortunately, an eccentric aunt has left her both a diary detailing the secrets to spinsterhood and a cottage in Cornwall. Unfortunately, an insufferable marquess is angling for her prize! Turning Lord Thomas Branston down flat should be easy. So why does this man who won't take no for an answer make Lucy's body and soul sigh yes?

Thomas knows the real value of Heathmore Cottage, and he has no intention of letting some silly Society miss get her hands on it. He'll simply have to charm Lucy into selling. But the clever young woman he encounters, first in London, then en route to Cornwall, stands stubbornly on her own two (quite lovely) feet. And now, Thomas can think only of sweeping her off them.

Good story about a headstrong young woman and a man with a haunted past. Lucy is twenty-one years old and about to start her long delayed Season. The problem is, she doesn't want it. She has no desire to parade herself in front of a bunch of men who only want her for her dowry. She would prefer to follow in the footsteps of her Aunt Edith, who is a spinster. Then she gets word that her aunt has died and left her a cottage in Lizard Bay, Cornwall. Lucy takes this as sign that she's on the right track. She also receives a package with her aunt's diaries, a chronicle of her life on her own.

Thomas is living in Lizard Bay and was friends with Miss E, as everyone called her. When Lucy's father comes for the funeral, Thomas makes an offer for the cottage, which her father accepts on Lucy's behalf. The property holds secrets and Thomas is determined to protect them. He is stunned to receive a letter a few days later, from a furious Lucy, who has canceled the sale. He heads to London to convince what he's sure is a silly young girl to part with the property. That meeting isn't at all what he expected.

I had some trouble liking Lucy. She was sheltered, therefore completely inexperienced with the real world. She was a bit selfish, taking action without thinking how it would affect others. I understood her need for independence, rather than following the norms of the day. I even understood her desire to see the house for herself. But she was far too impulsive and proceeded without really thinking things through. Her meeting with Thomas was very confrontational, with her being rather judgmental and unwilling to listen to him, though she is also rather drawn to him. When she encounters him on the train, her stubborn attitude continues, even though he is obviously trying to help her.

I liked Thomas a lot. He had his errors in judgment at the start, by not telling her the truth about the cottage and why he wants it. But he is at heart, a good man. Three years earlier he had moved to Lizard Bay, trying to escape the memory of what he saw as his failure to help his sister. Friendship with Miss E and becoming part of the community helped, but he still carries a lot of guilt. He is intrigued by Lucy, who is nothing like he expected.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship, though I frequently wanted to smack Lucy. They arrive in Lizard Bay and Thomas offers to show her the property, but she is sure that she can't trust him. After two days of trying to get someone else to do it, she finally gives in. By the time they arrive it is dark and raining and the house is only partly habitable. Lucy still insists that she can't trust him, and sends him on his way, only to find herself alone in the house with no clue how to go on. I loved the bit of self-realization as she admits her own shortcomings to herself. An encounter with a rat brings Thomas (who hadn't gone far) running. His protectiveness toward her has him staying close, and attraction continues to flare between them. Her stubbornness gets her into a dangerous situation the next morning. A combined rescue from Thomas and her father also brings out one of the secrets of the property. Lucy's mistrust is stirred again, and she is left wondering which is the real Thomas - the one who keeps secrets or the one who helped her?

A little real soul-searching has her finally realizing that she at least owes Thomas the courtesy of listening to what he has to say. I loved this part, as Thomas opens his heart and shows her the real treasure hidden on the property. He also opens up about his past and his feelings for Lucy. But there are still obstacles, mostly his, that come between them and a future. I liked Lucy's realization that Thomas must make certain decisions on his own and how she leaves him to it. I also liked seeing her stand up to her father about her property, and their conversation after was pretty sweet.

A trip back to London for her delayed entry into the season puts Lucy back where she started. She still has no desire to participate, but will do so for her mother and cousin. A surprise arrival brings Thomas to her door, after a lecture from Lizard Bay's vicar (who had an interesting revelation of his own). The day brings additional surprises, as well as the happy ending that both Lucy and Thomas yearned for.

I loved the epilogue, back in Lizard Bay. Lucy has found a way to help the town that they love. There is another surprise waiting for them, one that I rather expected, but satisfying anyway. 

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