Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bound by Duty - Diane Gaston (HH #1229 - Apr 2015)

Series: Scandalous Summerfields (Book 1)

His scandalous bride

Tess Summerfield's life is changed forever when she's rescued from drowning by the mysterious Marc Glenville. Forced to shelter in a deserted cottage, she spends the night wrapped in his arms for warmth.

When they are discovered, the tongues of the ton start wagging, and Marc knows the only way to silence them is to marry Tess. But his duties as a spy soon tear Marc away from the marriage bed. When they're at last reunited, can they rekindle the flame born from the ashes of scandal?

Good story of two people who have vastly different views of marriage and love and how they have a meeting of their hearts. Tess and her siblings are in some difficulty in their lives. Their mother deserted them years ago when she ran off with one of her lovers, creating a scandal that is still remembered. Their father had been a bitter man and not good with money. Upon his death there is no money for dowries or anything else. Tess's older sister Lorene enters into a marriage with a much older man in exchange for security for her family.

Tess is unhappy for her sister. She believes that love is the only true basis for marriage. Her parents had not loved each other; theirs had been an arranged marriage. Tess believes that is why her mother had had so many affairs - she was looking for real love. She has sworn she will never marry for anything less than love. While staying with her new brother-in-law, Tess goes out walking and gets caught in a huge storm that has roads back to the house under water. She is wet, cold, and lost when she is found by Marc.

Marc is on his way back to London, supposedly from Scotland. In truth, he has been doing undercover work for the Crown and is just back from France. He stumbles across Tess, and being a gentleman, cannot just leave her to fend for herself. He finds a cottage for shelter and is able to get them out of the storm, but keeping them warm entails huddling together under the blankets. When they are found together the next morning, Marc knows he must do the right thing. Tess was not what he was looking for in a wife. Marc had seen what an excess of emotion could do. His own parents had married in haste and are barely civil to each other now. His best friend had been disappointed in love and had become reckless during the war and died trying to complete an impossible mission. Marc's older brother had been killed during his trip to Gretna Green with the object of his love. He sees only tragedy when love enters the picture. He planned to marry someone whom he likes, but doesn't inspire unwelcome passion.

During their time in the cottage, Marc and Tess get along quite well. They agree to disagree on their views of love. Marc is intrigued by Tess's forthright attitude, and attracted to her beauty, something that disturbs him very much. There is something about Marc that stirs Tess, but neither expect to see each other again. Tess is horrified that Marc is being forced to marry her and would refuse if she could, but she too has no choice. 

Marc and Tess begin their marriage, each expecting the worst. Marc physically wants Tess desperately, but the intensity of his emotions feeds his fears. Tess, knowing his views on love, can only see a future of unhappiness for both of them. An intensely passionate wedding night gives her hope that maybe things can be different, until he deserts her the next day, leaving her to face the rumors and whispers alone. Marc had not wanted to leave, but his work for the Crown is important and secret. And when they meet again, her suspicion and his secrecy work against them. It's not until the realities of war intrude that they realize what is truly important.

I loved the importance that both Marc and Tess placed on their families. Tess and her siblings do whatever they must to support each other. As the oldest, Lorene felt it was her place to make the sacrifice to ensure their safety, no matter what she wanted. I will be interested to read her story. Genna is still young and immature, but still shows a fair amount of spirit. Their brother Edmund was quite interesting. I loved his attitude about the girls' mother, and his efforts to bring about a reconciliation. The mother was a pretty interesting character, and I liked seeing Tess's attitude to her start to change as her own love story unfolded. 

Seeing Marc's family made it obvious why his views were what they were. I thought his mother was quite the character, and loved the way she accepted Tess. Marc's sister was really sweet, though she seemed rather silly at times. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with her. I have a suspicion about who she'll end up with and look forward to seeing if I am right.

I really enjoyed the setting of Brussels at the time of Waterloo. It was interesting to see the bits about the attitudes of the locals, and the party-like feelings of the English visitors. The glimpses of the battle and the people associated with it were fascinating, as I don't know all that much about that event in history.

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