If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. - Oscar Wilde
We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. - B. F. Skinner
No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. - Mary Wortley Montagu

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: A Lady Without a Lord by Bliss Bennet / @blissbennet

Series & Title: The Penningtons, Book 3: A Lady Without a Lord
Author: Bliss Bennet
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Newsletter
Publisher: Bliss Bennet Books
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Genre: Historical, Romance
ARC Received From & Reviewed For: Bliss Bennet

A viscount convinced he’s a failure

For years, Theophilius Pennington has tried to forget his myriad shortcomings by indulging in wine, women, and witty bonhomie. But now that he’s inherited the title of Viscount Saybrook, it’s time to stop ignoring his responsibilities. Finding the perfect husband for his headstrong younger sister seems a good first step. Until, that is, his sister’s dowry goes missing . . .

A lady determined she’ll succeed

Harriot Atherton has a secret: it is she, not her steward father, who maintains the Saybrook account books. But Harry’s precarious balancing act begins to totter when the irresponsible new viscount unexpectedly returns to Lincolnshire, the painfully awkward boy of her childhood now a charming yet vulnerable man. Unfortunately, Theo is also claiming financial malfeasance. Can her father’s wandering wits be responsible for the lost funds? Or is she?

As unlikely attraction flairs between dutiful Harry and playful Theo, each learns there is far more to the other than devoted daughter and happy-go-lucky lord. But if Harry succeeds at protecting her father and discovering the missing money, will she be in danger of failing at something equally important—finding love?

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As was with most heirs of the time, Theo's future was set. The responsibility of caring for the people on his family lands, taking his place in the political arena, and marrying well rest heavily on his shoulders. Unfortunately, he prefers London to the country, entertaining beautiful women than seeing to his tenants, and making merry with his friends than making sure his estate is financially well. All of this comes to an abrupt halt when his sister marries and he finds he cannot account for her dowry.

The journey home isn't one he wants to make but knows it's necessary. The family steward will know what's going on and, hopefully, he can make sense of the missing money and go on with his life.

Except he doesn't because he finds he can't.

It isn't the missing money that keeps him in Saybrook, though figuring out what happened to it remains his priority. It's his tenants and one very grown up Harriot Atherton, daughter of the family steward, that does.

Harriot, or Harry as she is fondly called, is perplexed by Theo's arrival. Though they practically grew up together, shared their first kiss together, their social standings do not allow them more than friendship. Which is quite sad. Because Theo is a different man with Harriot. Not only does he see his responsibilities clearly, he becomes involved in them. He talks to her about local issues, and she's more than willing to discuss the estate with him.

But their newly renewed friendship isn't entirely built on honesty. It wasn't commonplace for a woman to deal with numbers or understand the financial workings of an estate. Harriot did because she convinced her father to let her do it. He isn't the steward he used to be. His mind is slipping away. Errors are being made. To save her father from potentially being put into an asylum, and hoping not arouse suspicion from tenants and the new viscount, Harriot assumes her father's responsibilities and puts the books to rights.

If Theo had remained in London, if his sister's dowry were readily available, Harriot's secret would have been safe. He didn't, it wasn't, and now she's struggling to keep her secret without jeopardizing the relationship she's building with Theo.

While I enjoyed the friendship between Theo and Harriot, I struggled with their more-than-friendship attraction. At times it felt cool, definitely more in the friend zone, but there were moments when sparks flew, changing it to warm. But the intensity I thought would happen, didn't. It's not to say they weren't a good match. Many great love stories begin as great friendships. Perhaps I wasn't reading as deeply as I should have. Perhaps it wasn't there to begin with. I would have loved to watch those sparks smolder until an inferno exploded between them.

What I loved was how Theo and Harriot came into themselves. Theo slides from being a good-hearted wastrel to a responsible heir, who uses his charm and wit--once used to bed whomever he wanted in London--to deal with certain situations on the homestead. His friendly manner makes him approachable when his title alone would frighten many. Harriot is, by nature I think, a caretaker. She gives of herself to so many, her father included, that her own wants and needs are sometimes set aside. The insecurity she has about being with Theo--she doesn't consider herself as beautiful or charming or alluring as the women of London--fades as she sees herself through Theo's eyes. Her intelligence is not to be hidden, her patience is to be admired. As a whole, their lives are changed for the better because of what they see and find in one another.

Despite my feelings about the heat of their relationship, there is no denying the strength of their relationship. Their love is sincere. In a time when marriages were arranged for political and/or financial gain, this is an accomplishment that cannot be ignored. It eludes to the passion that burns between them even if I can't see it.

Bliss Bennet writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Despite being born and bred in New England, Bliss finds herself fascinated by the history of that country across the pond, particular the politically volatile period known as the English Regency. Though she's visited England several times, Bliss continues to make her home in New England, along with her husband, daughter, and two monstrously fluffy black cats.

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