Tuesday, May 12, 2009

REVIEW: Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas

SETTING/TYPE: Victorian Historical Romance
Love has designs of its own.…

To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness, and freedom—by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.

But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines….When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and now Gigi wants to be free to marry again. When Camden returns from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for her 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.

I have several book themes I look for when picking romances and "troubled marriage" is one of my favorites. In fact, I have a tag for these types of plots in my LibraryThing account. So after reading all the buzz about Sherry Thomas' debut book, Private Arrangements, I had to try it and I'm glad I did because I found it very impressive.

Gigi, Lady Tremaine, has been separated from her husband, Camden, for 10 years. Gigi loves her husband but she is tired of waiting for him and has decided to get on with her life and remarry someone else for some small chance at happiness. Camden doesn't want her but doesn't want anyone else to have her either. Especially dim-witted Freddie, her intended fiance. So Camden demands that they live together for one year so he can get an heir off her in exchange for the divorce she wants. And Gigi agrees.

The story goes back and forth between the past and the present and slowly reveals why these two imperfect and somewhat unlikeable characters are so bitter and cruel to each other. When they first meet both characters are immature and Gigi has no self confidence in her beauty or personal attributes needed to attract a man aside from her considerable fortune. Camden is on the verge of proposing to another girl and Gigi is very determined to have him so she plots and schemes to bring Camden to propose. On the eve of their wedding Camden discovers her deception and is very angry (and I suspect, very hurt). He decides to proceed with the wedding and consummates the marriage, then very cruelly humiliates and rejects her. Of course, in this way he can throw her out and still have access to all her lovely money. Let's just say I was not too fond of Camden at this point. Especially after Gigi grovels and begs for him to take her back. Gigi is at fault for her deception but I found her much more sympathetic and I actually liked her quite a bit.

The weaving of the past with the present was smoothly done and the use of language by Thomas was superb making this book hard to put down. When Camden and Gigi first marry they are very young and so I gave their initial poor behavior some slack, but it is now ten years later and Camden is still bitter and angry and seems to still want to punish Gigi for making him fall in love with her. Gigi has grown up and acts much more honorably towards Camden and I found her a much more sympathetic character.

There is a lovely romantic sub-plot involving Gigi's mother, Mrs. Rowland, and a reclusive duke who lives next door. Mrs. Rowland tries to bag the duke for her daughter but ends up falling in love with him herself. A very amusing and well done sidebar to the main plot.

Overall this was a somewhat deep historical with three dimensional characters and a very satisfying and romantic ending. Everything I enjoy in a romance. I enjoyed this book so much Thomas is an auto-buy for me now. I have read Delicious and have Not Quite a Husband on my wishlist.



Marg said...

I really enjoyed this book when I read it a while ago, and I am really looking forward to reading Not Quite a Husband.

sula said...

*sigh* I'm so conflicted on whether or not I want to read this. I actually bought it back when it first came out but then read some reviews that indicated some of my hot-button issues might get pushed. It's back on the shelf for now. Maybe one of these days when I'm feeling stronger...

ReneeW said...

Marg: I saw some good reviews of NQAH and I'm looking forward to it too.

Sula: Yes, I'll agree it had some issues and I was a bit hesitant to start it as well, but I'm glad I did. I thought Thomas handled it well and I kinda like 'unlikeable' characters. And her writing is so good. Read the first couple of chapters and you'll probably know if it will or won't work for you.

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