I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Little Season #1
Published by HQN on December 29, 2015
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
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Experience the drama of the Little Season in the first of a new series by USA TODAY bestselling author Kasey Michaels, in which three dashing war heroes have finally met their matches…
Gabriel Sinclair has returned from battle as reluctant heir to a dukedom. As if his new responsibilities weren’t enough, Gabriel’s aunt enlists him to sponsor a young heiress through London’s Little Season. Yet Miss Thea Neville is hardly the tedious obligation he expected. She’s exotic and enchanting—and utterly unaware of the secret poised to destroy her family’s reputation.
After ten years in America, Thea is ready to do her duty and marry well. Deportment lessons, modistes, balls—the ton is a minefield she could scarcely navigate without Gabriel’s help. By rights, she should accept the first bachelor who offers for her. Instead, she’s succumbing to a dangerous attraction to her wickedly handsome chaperone—one that could unhinge her plans in the most delicious way.
I’ve been enjoying Kasey Michaels’ work since I picked up my first of her Alphabet Regency novels, The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane, and I was excited about my hands on a copy of my first of her more recent novels, and I was especially intrigued by the idea of a series that revolves around the Little Season, since most Regencies are set during the main Season in spring.
For the most part, the main consideration I had when I decided to read and review An Improper Arrangement was the author. After reading the description, though, I found myself a little worried. I wondered if this novel would be as casually hilarious as the Alphabets, something I’d thought of as Michaels’ trademark. But I also hoped this would have a little more depth to it. Happily, Michaels certainly delivered, as far as I am concerned.
Once again, Michaels introduces her readers to a delightfully eccentric yet lovable cast of characters. The synopsis doesn’t really do the story justice, so if you’ll forgive me, I’ll sum things up here:
Gabriel Sinclair is the nephew of Basil, the sixth Duke of Cranbook. The duke ascended to the title unexpectedly following the deaths of his four older brothers, all of whom keeled over dead just before turning 60. Convinced he is cursed, the adventure-loving, globe-trotting duke trades in his joie de vivre for stubborn hypochondria and retreats to his estate to commence dying, much to the despair of his duchess and heir. The duchess hopes to reinvigorate her husband and help Gabe gain vengeance against a nobleman who has wronged him and his friends by bringing from Virginia a woman just shy of spinsterhood at the age of 22.
Dorothea Neville’s mere existence spells scandal for the evil earl and the son he’s used his power to gain a war medal for, at the expense of the safety of Gabe and his friends. Gabe is tantalized by the idea of getting some of his own back, but he finds his conscience pricked by the idea of using her to enact his revenge. What he doesn’t realize is that Thea is nobody’s pawn. She has an agenda, a mission of her own, and she needs the duke and duchess to help launch her into society in order to carry it out. What she doesn’t count on is falling for the duke’s heir.
What ensues is a comedic journey to love and, if not revenge, then a sort of justice, throughout which the characters grow ever more endearing, admirable, and just plain likable not just to the readers but to each other. Gabe and Thea have their hands full throughout the novel; they have to deal with Gabe’s hermit uncle and flibbertigibbet aunt, their collection of over a hundred birds collected from all over the world, the unlikely romance between two outrageous and seemingly ill-matched friends, the problem of what to do about the scandal that is Thea’s very existence, and an evil earl who not only has motive to murder Thea but also relishes in bullying the duke in public. And that’s not even mentioning the burgeoning affection and desire between our two heroes.
Speaking of heroes, the main characters tend to make or break a story for me, and the ones featured in An Improper Arrangement definitely made it into the “make” column. Thea was strong, intelligent, and witty yet kind and generous; she proved to be a very steadfast and protective friend. Beyond that, she was a woman who knew her own mind and claimed and maintained ownership of her body, and while she went after what she wanted, she also was flexible enough to understand that when her ultimate goals in life changed, so too did the actions she would have to take.
Gabe was equally kind, caring, and protective, and though he had a reputation for being something of a rogue, his sense of honor and integrity shone through immediately. Better yet, even when he isn’t quite sure he likes Thea and he’s thoroughly put out with his aunt, he affords both women more respect than you’d anticipate in a man of this period and stature, and he is even kind to servants and animals. What more could you want in a hero?
Beyond this, the X factor for me when it came to An Improper Arrangement was that signature Kasey Michaels sense of humor; rather than being overt and perhaps a little slightly overdone as in the Alphabet Regencies, the funny moments kind of snuck up on me with this one, and I liked them all the better for it. I don’t think I will ever hear a sound that in any way resembles “erp” without either giggling or looking concernedly at those around me—likely both, simultaneously. The side comments and antics of the supporting characters had me smiling like a loon over this book. Plus, to quote Thea, “and then there were the birds….”
My final verdict? An Improper Arrangement is a must-read if you’re looking for a Regency romance that takes you on a wild, laughter-filled, and particularly feathery romp toward a happily ever after.
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