We suffered through 2011 with no new book by Sherry Thomas, but we’re being repaid for our wait with an entire trilogy in 2012. (She will also have a novella out in the anthology Midnight Scandals, which should be published sometime late summer.) The first book of the Fitzhugh trilogy, Beguiling the Beauty, lives up to the high standard set by Thomas’s previous novels, despite being somewhat slimmer.
Christian de Montfort, the Duke of Lexington, fell in lust with Venetia Easterbrook at first sight. Back then she was Venetia Townsend and out of his reach as another man’s wife. Unused to not getting his way, she left a mark on Christian. So did her husband, who cryptically mocked his wife and men’s desire for her to Christian shortly before killing himself. Then Venetia almost immediately remarries and Christian decides to think the worst of her.
Meanwhile, Venetia doesn’t know Christian exists until one day she hears him tell a lecture audience about her crimes. She decides to seduce him on their way back to England in order to pay him back for his gossip. She hides her identity by wearing a veil and adopting a German accent, as one does. The plot verges into silliness, but the sparks between Venetia and Christian carry the story. On the transatlantic voyage they spend a great deal of time sparring or telling each other stories about their pasts, and those interactions really sell the romance.
I find Christian’s character somewhat inconsistent. He’s a scientist and prides himself on being logical, but decided the worst about Venetia without gathering much evidence or hearing multiple sides of the story. He persists in some of most erroneous beliefs even after getting to know Venetia and hearing bit and pieces about her past that contradict him.
Venetia wanted to be a paleontologist like Mary Anning. Instead, she married – twice. She’s a little at loose ends, except for looking after her sisters. Christian’s remarks are something to focus on, albeit in a destructive way. As she gets to know the Duke, she regrets deceiving him and breaking his heart. But she doesn’t know how to show him her true self after confirming his worst thoughts about her.
Thomas’s books almost always have secondary romances. In the case of Beguiling the Beauty, Millie and Helena Fitzhugh’s romantic woes are introduced, but their main storylines are saved for their own books. I think there is a bit too much about their heroes, considering there are going to be two more books, but I’ll reserve judgment until I actually read those. The cameos by Thomas’s previous characters are perfect. Fans get to check in on the relationships, but the characters don’t take over the new story.
Beguiling the Beauty may not be my favorite by Thomas, but that’s mostly because her backlist is so strong. This one is a quick, passionate historical romance and a nice introduction to a couple of future heroines. I look forward to reading their stories later this year. (And Ravishing the Heiress is already out, so I can read it very soon indeed.)
When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg aboard a transatlantic ocean liner, he is fascinated. She is exactly what he has been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage.
And then she disappears without a trace…
For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…
Read an excerpt here.