Series: Everleigh Sisters #1
Published by Entangled: Amara on November 26, 2019
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Beauty and the Beast meets Taming of the Shrew in this laugh-out-loud and heartfelt Regency romance.
Lord Nathaniel Harte, the disagreeable Duke of Beswick, spends his days smashing porcelain, antagonizing his servants, and snarling at anyone who gets too close. With a ruined face like his, it's hard to like much about the world. Especially smart-mouthed harpies—with lips better suited to kissing than speaking—who brave his castle with indecent proposals.
But Lady Astrid Everleigh will stop at nothing to see her younger sister safe from a notorious scoundrel, even if it means offering herself up on a silver platter to the forbidding Beast of Beswick himself. And by offer, she means what no highborn lady of sound and sensible mind would ever dream of—a tender of marriage with her as his bride.
A wonderful story of love despite adversity.
Lady Astrid Everleigh was wronged by her fiance, the Earl of Beaumont. He showed drunk at a party and insisted she go with him to find a bedroom since they were engaged anyway. She refused to sleep with him and realizing she definitely didn’t want to sleep with him ever, she broke off their engagement. Since he was a dashing and rich ass, he told everyone he broke off the engagement since Astrid was a slut which of course required no proof. So Astrid and her family were shunned by the ton for her shameful behavior. Shocking this makes Astrid a bit of bitter and angry.
Forward a few years, her parents have died leaving her in the loving care of an uncle and aunt who have pissed away their own fortune and in order to supplement their own failings agrees to an engagement of Astrid’s younger sister, Isobel, to the same Earl of Beaumont. Apparently he is still harboring a crushed ego at Astrid’s refusal to sleep with his awesomeness so he plans to be a brutal husband to her little sister, and he happily tells her all about his plans of revenge. Astrid is almost old enough to inherit her fortune and be guardian to her sister so the Uncle and the Earl are working extra hard to make this wedding happen before that time.
Since Astrid can’t speed up time, her only other option would be to find a man willing to marry her–an old decrepit spinster of 24 with a shady reputation–but she thinks she has just the candidate. Nathaniel Harte is the Duke of Beswick, but the ton refers to him as The Beast because he was horribly disfigured fighting in the war when he saved all his men by taking a group of French soldiers single-handedly. While he did win the fight, Thane was mauled by their bayonets, taking out chunks of his face and his body. Astrid arrives at his home and demands to see him and makes him an offer of marriage. She will produce him heirs and he will protect her and her sister. Astrid is rather shocked when he turns her down as he has no interest in fathering children or being burdened with a wife and her sister.
After a good slap down, Thane believes he has heard the last of that ballsy shrew, but Astrid is determined to save her sister so she returns with another proposal. Astrid will help him appraise and catalog all of the art Thane inherited so he can have an auction and donate the money. This will give Astrid and Isobel a safe place to live until Astrid reaches her majority and can take care of them without a husband.
This plans is working great until Isobel gets cabin fever and insists it would be perfectly safe if she and Astrid can go to town. By this time, we are all sick of whiny Isobel and of course, they are noticed in Town, sending, the Aunt, Uncle and the Earl fast on their heels to Beswick’s door. This leaves Astrid and Thane no choice but to get married to save Isobel.
At this point, no one realizes that Astrid and Thane are fighting a serious attraction for each other and while they pretend to be reluctant, they are anything but. Of course, stupid Isobel decides she needs to save Astrid from a marriage to a monster and runs off leaving a note which requires everyone to stop what they are doing to run after her before she does something stupid. By this time, I am so sick of Isobel, I would have just let her go ruin her life. Sorry. Sometimes it is Survival of the Fittest and the stupid must go.
What I like most about this story is that it was the first actual Beast story that had a Beast aspect to it instead of just a scar and a sad backstory. Thane was brutalized during the battle and managed to find a doctor, not a battle surgeon, who sewed him back together but not expecting him to actual survive. Thane has horrible Frankenstein scars on his face and chunks missing from his body. He deserves to snarl and be cranky since people stare at him, point and runaway. Astrid does flinch the first time she sees him, which is part of why he turns down her proposal originally, but after spending time with him, she becomes immune to the horror of his scars and focuses on his snappy personality and eventually how attracted she is to him. Of course, they both fear that they are the one in too deep and want to protect their vulnerable heart so it takes a lot of time to get them to admit their feelings.
I loved the scene after Isobel first meets Thane and is horrified and wants to leave and Astrid gives her one hell of a firm slap-down that Thane is an injured war hero who has kindly taken them in off the street, he should be respected and Isobel needs to grow up and get over herself. Loved it!
This was noted as a Beauty and the Beast/Taming of the Shrew story but I felt that was harsh to call Astrid a shrew. Astrid had her life turned upside down by this spoiled jackass. She had to give up all dreams of a family of her own because he slandered her and yet she still couldn’t stop this ass from ruining her and her sister’s lives further just because he was vindictive. She wasn’t shrewish so much as jaded and determined not to be further trampled on since she was fighting for her and her sister’s futures.
The only plot point I felt was brushed over was how the hell Astrid picked out Thane to solve all her problems. He wasn’t a neighbor since they were hiding somewhere no one would look for them but he wasn’t that far that it would have taken them days to get there. She just showed up saying she knew he needed a wife to give him an heir. How did she know this? Gossip columns? Obviously, the fragile debutantes of the ton were not knocking down his door no matter his title and his wealth, but how did she pick Thane. Why not some old guy or poor Lord who would have married a scorned woman for her fortune? I don’t know if he was injured before or after her engagement was called off. Did she hear of his plight and kept him as a Plan B in the back of her mind? I just thought it was odd that we never discussed why she came knocking on Thane’s door. He couldn’t have been the only wounded soldier who the ladies were ignoring. Sorry but that missing piece irked me a bit.
It was an enjoyable story with the exception of my desire to get rid of Isobel for being so annoyingly stupid. Apparently there is an Isobel story coming but I am not sure I care enough about her to pick it up.
Everyone was shouting, the viscount was red in the face, and Beaumont wore his usual sneer. Apparently, the man hadn’t taken his earlier warning seriously. Thane would simply have to be more convincing. He cleared his throat, and the room fell silent. “We have a wedding to plan.”
The viscount spluttered anew. “Now see here, you bounder, she is my niece. I have the right to thwart any fortune hunters and the like.”
“I beg your pardon, Lord Everleigh.” Aunt Mabel looked down the length of her aristocratic nose at him as if he were lower than a slug. “The Hartes have no need of fortune.”
He reddened but scowled. “The duke falls into the category of the like.“
“What do you mean, sir?”
“Look at him,” Everleigh scoffed, his disgust plain. “With a face like that, he’d have to coerce any woman to wed him. There’s no way a beautiful niece of mine would have accepted willingly.”
“She looked rather willing when we arrived, eh, Culbert?” That was from Fletcher, the insubordinate rascal. Thane bit back a smile at Astrid’s instant blush.
“Begone,” Viscount Everleigh said. “Servants have no place here.”
Thane hiked an eyebrow. “You’ll forgive me, Everleigh, if I take offense at you ordering about my staff. Fletcher is more than welcome to share his opinion.”
“Well, I never” the viscount fumed. “If you think I’m going to give my blessing to this union, you are wrong, sir.”
“Your Grace,” Lady Ashley corrected.
The viscount glowered rudely at her. “What?”
“The duck outranks you and so you must address him as Your Grace, Lord Everleigh,” Lade Ashley said with a sniff of disdain. “It is only proper.”
“I do not approve of your suit, Your Grace.” Everleigh mocked. “The answer is no.”
“We don’t need your approval, Uncle.”
Thane’s gaze pivoted to land on Astrid, who was standing to his right beside her sister, her chin high. She would hold him to task and blister him with her tongue behind closed doors, but she would not dishonor him publicly.
“I’ve reached my majority, and it says clearly in my father’s will that in my own sound judgment, I may pick a husband of my choosing.” Her smile was tight. “As long as he is of good birth, titled and not a fortune hunter as we’ve already established, my choice will stand. The Duke of Beswick is a sound match.”
“Sound? You’re not of sound judgment, more like it,” he accused. “Look at him,” he shouted again. “He’s a bloody beast who doesn’t even possess the manners to exist in polite society. Is that what you want? To accept that savage creature into your bed?”
Isobel gasped, her face flushing at her uncle’s crudeness, and the older ladies present tittered with disapproval.
“Uncle!” Astrid cried, her gaze flying to Thane’s but he was used to it and more. He kept his expression shuttered, despite the urge to smash his fist into the viscount’s mouth, but he would not give him or Beaumont the satisfaction or an excuse to call his mental capabilities into question. He wouldn’t put it past either man to undermine him with accusations of violence. Founded on the battlefield though such claims might be, Thane would never harm a woman.
Lady Ashley huffed. “For shame, Lord Everleigh–you venture into the obscene. And in the presence of gently bred ladies, no less. For shame, my lord.”
“It is the duke who has no shame. He has ruined my precious niece. Forced her.”
And there it was–accusation number one.
“Is that true, Your Grace?” the parish officer who had accompanied Beaumont asked, speaking for the first time.
“Why not ask the lady?” Thane replied. “Lady Astrid is more than capable of speaking for herself.”
He’d expected her to reply, not to move to his side and take his hand firmly in hers. Thane’s throat felt tight. A trembled passed over her shoulders. “The duke did not force me. I accepted his suite of my own free will.
“Good Lord, see how she’s shaking with fear,” Lady Everleigh cried. “I saw it. The girl is terrified. An imbecile could see it!”
Thane opened his mouth to silence the absurdity once an for all, but Astrid beat him to it. She met her aunt’s crazed eyes with cool composure, the hint of a smile on her lips. “I assure you, Aunt Mildred, it’s not fear that makes me shiver.”
God. This woman.
Thane was so fucking proud of her in that moment, he wanted to crush her to him. Fall to his knees and worship her as she deserved. His own avenging angel. Others saw it, too. He could see the sheen of tears in his aunt’s eyes and the surprise in Lady Ashley’s. He ignored the disgust in everyone else’s, as if it was so inconceivable that a living, breathing woman could feel anything but revulsion for him. Thane felt an odd sensation in his chest…as if the organ that used to be there had suddenly started working.