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Private Arrangements by Sherry ThomasAlicia’s review of Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
Historical romance released by Bantam Books 25 Mar 08

I went into this book knowing nothing except that it was a romance and I could count on getting a happy ending. It’s a good thing I knew that, though, because this couple put me through the wringer.

We start the book with the ten year marriage about to be dissolved. Gigi has come to the end of her ability to wait for the husband she loves and wants to have a chance at some happiness. Camden, the husband, doesn’t want her for himself but still intends to make this as difficult for her as possible. We then go back to the beginning of the story. Knowing the horrible future awaiting the young couple as they fall in love and marry is kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion, the tremendous force behind their love only making the devastation more horrible.

The book goes back and forth between the present plot and the couple’s back-story, keeping the reader constantly involved at both levels. The unfolding is exquisite. The dignity of the characters means that the pain is not portrayed in vulgar scenes. Instead it is the bleak, almost silent bleeding out of a dream.

Gigi is the daughter of new money. She intends to marry a title and is ruthless in her hunt. She’s not shy and selfless underneath. She’s not misunderstood or innocent. She’s not in desperation, trying to save some beloved family member or under threats by some evil one. She’s just exactly what she seems and is open about it from the beginning. Actually, Camden loves her that way.

Camden has been raised in the poor and untitled branch of a “good” family. He has spent his childhood in the most fashionable locations during the least fashionable seasons, when the owners were out of town and would lend out accommodations. He is a man to whom honor is everything. It is all he ever had.

The result is painful to watch. This is one of those stories that rips out your heart and pokes needles in it, slices it in pieces, puts it through the meat grinder, then puts it back where it belongs. The emotion is high and the characters well written.

The actual writing is wonderful. The dialogue is fantastic. The use of sexual tension is precise. It isn’t used to make the book “hot” until the characters are ready for it. It isn’t rushed. The setting is Victorian and we get a feel for the time without having random history lectures tossed in. The author allows sexual references without crossing the line into unrealistic erotica (which has its place but it wouldn’t be here). It simply feels like the kind of things real adults know are part of life. The plot is simple with the focus being the characters, their history and hope (or not) for the future.

The only thing bringing my grade for this book down is my feeling like Camden didn’t demonstrate nearly enough regret. Gigi groveled enough for both of them and she gets very little reassurance of his true feelings. She has made monumental leaps in character growth and none of it easily earned. While Camden was right at first, he wasn’t right for long, and I wanted to see his pain laid bare before her for all the years she paid for her sin. She learned her lesson early and well, and he knew it. I didn’t really feel he redeemed himself.

Alicia's IconGrade: B-

     To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness, freedom—and living on separate continents.

     But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines…When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, Lord Tremaine, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming: she simply had to have him. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and Gigi wants to be free to marry again. Now Camden has returned from America with an outrageous demand—an heir—in exchange for Gigi’s freedom.

     Gigi’s decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled—and one of London’s most admired couples must either fall in love all over again…or let each other go forever.

     Read an excerpt.

Read Lawson’s review