A Gentleman by Any Other Name by Kasey Michaels
Old enough to remember his beginning, Chance Becket has spent all of his thirty years trying to forget, hiding his unsavory youth behind a society marriage and a prestigious position with the War Office. But now the widower must confront his past and return to the windswept coast of Romney Marsh...where the ghosts of his childhood still linger.
Newly hired governess Julia Carruthers is delighted to be in charge of Chance's young daughter and eager to escape the confines of London. Yet the excitement of the journey to her employer's strange home is nothing compared to the attraction between them. And when Julia sees something she should not, she wonders if Chance's sudden intentions are prompted by ungentlemanly desires or his need to protect his family's secrets.
When I first began this book I didn't think I would like it but after a bit I became certain I would love it. Then I didn't love it anymore, until I did again. Julia and Chance were delightful together as many of Kasey Michaels's couples are--lots of smart dialogue and both protagonists not particularly happy about their developing feelings for the other while also realizing that there would be nobody more perfect for them. It was the plot involving smuggling that kept me from being able to consistently love the story in the beginning. It was necessary to set up the relationship between Julia and the Becket family as well as allowing Chance to renew the ties to his family that his long absence had left tattered and frayed. But it was serious and I wanted the story to remain light-hearted. Luckily, I was not the one to make the decisions on how the story developed and over time I came to be as deeply invested in the smuggling story line as I was in the romance as both Julia and Chance were so deeply entrenched in the matter that it became one seamless, heart wrenchingly beautiful tale.
Chance and Julia did not have a smooth road to their happy ever after and I found myself pleasantly surprised with how deftly Kasey Michaels wrote the part of Julia. She was able to be sharp tongued and observant while also having to deal with 1811 restrictions towards women. Chance could be cruel in his remarks (mostly unwittingly so) and Julia was hurt by them and yet didn't break. The secondary characters were also very well rounded with everyone having both good and frustrating traits...which is good as this is the first in a series about eight siblings. Too perfect characters would be cookie cutter and boring; not the Beckets all of whom are flawed and not-so-charmingly at that and yet I have no doubt that Kasey Michaels will find a way to redeem them all and make them worthy of rooting for. I strongly enjoyed this book but am waffling on reading the rest of the series which makes for a mixed message. This book was compelling and captivating but not an easy read for me. I can't decide if I would want the next book to be less challenging or if I would want it to be as frustratingly and rewardingly complex as the first.
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TBR (retro read for June's criteria)
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I purchased this book with my own funds.