Published by Self-Published on October 1st 2016
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Lady Linnet Cadwallader has been raised a helpless invalid in her own castle. Brought up to believe she will 'never make old bones' she lives a quiet and lonely existence, hiding away her excessive freckles and red hair from a world that believes her to be hideously misshapen and ugly.
Until one day her uncle arranges a marriage of convenience for her, a marriage in name only with a young puppet groom... but Sir Roland does not show up. In his place turns up his bastard-born brother Mason Vawdrey. And dark, forceful Mason is no-one's puppet.
Things are about to get interesting at Cadwallader Castle. And Linnet is about to discover that maybe a golden leopardess does not need to change her glorious spots.
This is a full length novel of over 80,000 words. Please do not purchase if you are offended by strong language and or sex scenes.
I admit that I have an unholy interest in imperfect main characters. It seems too easy to write a romance where the gorgeous billionaire falls for the most beautiful woman to cross his path. Everyone wants to be them or be with them. Sometimes I am jaded when the hero is falling for someone who is unbelievably gorgeous.
This book is one that I actually paid $2.99 for, which is impressive since I usually only grab the free books or maybe toss out $.99, and then never read them. I already have so many books collecting dust, so why buy more? I think it was the title that caught my attention first, and then reading the information about the story I had to know about the bride to be who was “hideously misshapen and ugly.” It is written in a medieval time period, which is usually not my thing, but I had to know was this hideousness something minimal that would have been easily fixed in present times? Obviously it would be something that our hero would be able to overlook so we can get our HEA.
It was actually quite interesting to find out that there was actually nothing wrong with Linnet except that she was a petite redhead (unfashionable) with lots and lots of freckles (also unfashionable). Her guardians were so busy enjoying living in her castle and spending her money that they convinced Linnet that she was of fragile health and she needed to stay in a windowless tower away from the outdoors and from society. They then convinced everyone that poor, sick Linnet was hideously deformed so that she would never marry and have a child who would inherit the Dukedom. It was kind of sad that even the people who worked in the castle didn’t know what she looked like. She was rumored to be a hunchback. She was rumored to be an ugly “toad in a dress.” She was a prisoner in her own home but her prison bars were her supposed ill health. While Linnet is strong-willed, she didn’t know enough to rebel. She was smart and kept the books of the house, but couldn’t wander her own house to know that there wasn’t even as much staff as she was paying each month, while her aunt and uncle robbed her blind. She even paid a large sum for a wedding celebration, which she wasn’t invited to, and which the aunt and uncle were going to pretend happened, again while they pocketed the money.
What they didn’t expect was that Mason Vawdrey would be sent to let them know that his younger brother got cold feet and decided not to marry “in name only” the sickly, hunchback in the tower. Mason lets Linnet know there will be no wedding and so as not to disappoint all her guests, she proposes that Mason step in as groom. Mason’s first order of business after saying “I do” it to toss out the aunt and uncle, making sure they don’t steal all his wife’s assets as they went. And you can’t help cheering, “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”
Mason is an awesome hero but he is a soldier with no romantic gene. He is the bastard middle son, between two legitimate brothers. He knows that he is gruff and he knows that he is not good enough for Linnet, but even in his brutish, awkwardness, he is kind to Linnet. He is clumsy in his attempts to being a good husband but Linnet doesn’t hold it against him. Linnet comes to understand that she actually isn’t sickly, but she knows that she isn’t considered a great beauty. She hopes that Mason can come to tolerate her red hair and freckles and her boyish figure, never realizing how obsessive Mason is becoming over her hair and freckles.
We can easily see Linnet is smitten with her husband, and while Mason protests that he is in the relationship for the money, we can see that he wants Linnet herself more than the estate that comes with the marriage. They bargained for a heir who would inherit the title entailed to Linnet, but then Mason keeps changing that son to two sons then three sons, then maybe some daughters too. While there is no flowery romance, we see their relationship grow, which is something I always enjoy watching unfold in my romances.
Of course, there can’t just be two people falling in love as the only plot of the story and in this case, the aunt and uncle convince Mason’s brother to go to the King to have the marriage annulled. They start rumors to the effect that Mason climbed in Linnet’s sick bed, all but raped her and then forced her to marry him, stealing his brother’s betrothed and then throwing the aunt and uncle out of the house when they would have protected her. Of course, hearing that tale, the King calls them to Court to investigate their relationship and decide if the marriage will stand.
It makes me sound horrible, but I loved watching the stoic Mason loosing his mind over the fact that he might lose his wife. He was so gruff and unromantic but you could see the little things he was doing that professed how he was falling for Linnet and once he knew he was in real danger of losing her, he went crazy.
If I had to complain, I will say as a reviewer I read a lot of advance copies and have learned to ignore typos and punctuation issues since the ARCs I receive are still in the editing process. When I pay for a book, I do expect those books to be a finalized copy that has been proofread and edited before release. This one had lots of conversations with quotations which weren’t closed or weren’t opened, few wrong words, and an overall lack of simple proofreading. It was self-published, but the author could have had a friend read it and make notes of what needed to be cleaned up.
Overall, it was a quick, sweet story, and I might just give it a re-read to boot. I was sorry to see the end of cranky Mason and sweet Linnet.
“Roland’s being manipulated by the Jevons’,” Oswald said in his most reasonable voice. “We all know that.”
“Young fool!” spat his father angrily. “I ought to tan his hide!”
Mason rubbed his eyes and winced.
“What’s up with you?” grunted his father.
“Didn’t sleep,” he answered brusquely.
“Out whoring were you?” snorted his father. “Well I’ve no symp–“
“No, I was not out whoring,” roared Mason, flinging his goblet of wine across the room so hard it bounced off the wall and rolled all the way back to his feet. “For fuck’s sake!” He glared at his father. “I couldn’t sleep because I am in danger of losing my wife which is something you wouldn’t have the first fucking clue about even if you have been married three times. Because let me explain this to you father,” his voice trembling with rage, and he only manged to lower his voice with the greatest of effort. “Wives are not like live-stock and you do not breed them like horses And if you ever speak of Linnet dying of a disease again, so help me, I will–”
“Mason,” Oswald had stepped in front of him. “Mason, calm down. Calm down, Mason.”
The red mist obscured almost everything for a moment, but after a few seconds he managed to see his brother’s mouth moving and realized he was talking to him. Mason shook his head and let Oswald shove him back into a chair. He went hot, he went cold. He could suddenly hear again.
He brother was talking sharply to their father, “If you haven’t got anything useful to say just keep your mouth shut for fuck’s sake,” he scolded.
And suddenly that struck Mason as the funniest thing he had heard in years. His prim and proper brother curing his sire out. He started to laugh and then found he couldn’t stop. Oswald and Baron Vawdrey stared. Tears rolled down his face, his ribs hurt.
“I’m getting a physician,” yelped their father backing out of the room. “He’s gone raving mad!”
Oswald shut the door after him and shot a look of concern at Mason. “Listen to me Mason,” he urged. “This whole business is going to be resolved. You need to keep your head.”
Mason covered his face with his hand. “I’ve made a mess of everything,” he groaned.
“What’s that?” Oswald looked if anything even more worried. “You mean with Lord Schaeffer?”
“No, not him. With Linnet.”
Mason scrubbed his eyes, unable to speak.
Oswald had crouched down before him. “Mason, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Linnet thinks the sun rises and sets with you.”
“You didn’t read that fucking book.”
Oswald looked bewildered. “Book? What book?”
“Sir bloody Maurency of Jorde.”
Oswald’s expression cleared. “I have read that book, Mason,” He corrected him crisply. “It’s a popular book. What has that to do with anything?”
“That’s what she thinks a knight is.”
Oswald sighed. “I’m sure Linnet would realize that is a highly romanticized version of a knight,” he pointed out. “I’m getting you a drink.” He picked up the goblet which now had a huge dent in the side of it. Putting that back down, he picked up Baron Vawdrey’s abandoned wine and passed that to Mason with an awkward pat of his shoulder.
Mason tipped it back and swallowed the wine down. “It’s not just the book,” he admitted, not meeting Oswald’s gaze.
His brother took his cup and refilled it before passing it back to him. Then he fetched the jug and placed it on the low table between them and pulled up a chair. “Tell me,” he said simply.
“You remember,” said Mason slowly. “The day after I was married? When all I cared about was counting how much wealth Linnet had bought me? And you said–” he broke off to rub his temple. “You said that I should have given her soft words. And I laughed, like the bastard I am and said I had only married her for her money–” He found himself unable to speak another word and took another gulp of wine instead.
Oswald waited patiently a moment but then realized nothing else was forthcoming. “I do remember, Mason,” he said steadily. “I think I probably remember it better than you. Do you know why?”
Mason shook his head.
“Because I realized, even at the time that you were full of shit, brother,” said Oswald ruefully. He settled back into his seat with a soft laugh. “I remember I said something about even ugly women deserving kindness and your eyes blazed up with murder and you accused me of being jealous. Do you remember?”
“No,” said Mason dully. “Call her ugly again and I’ll kill you.”
Oswald ignored him. “Then you went haring straight up to her and didn’t emerge until supper time when she hung off your every word and clearly thought you were the hero of the hour.”
“I need to get drunk,” said Mason pouring himself another wine.
“And let’s face it, you’ve been like a dog with a bone with her from day one. Anyone so much as looks at her too long and you growl. You’re insanely possessive.”
Mason shifted in his seat. Well, that might be true enough. “Are you going to join me?” he held up the jug.
“I think one of us should keep a clear head. Besides, you know I can’t hold my ale.” Oswald watched him take another deep draught of wine. “What I’m trying to say is this, brother. That even if you thought your motivation in marrying Linnet was unprincipled I don’t think you were aware of what truly compelled you.”
Mason frowned. “Which was?”
“You took one look at Linnet and saw your future.”