Why this one: I’ve heard good things about Courtney Milan’s books and since I met her and even shared a lunch table with her, I figured it was only right that I read at least one of her books
Steam Level: On the very nicely warmish side
She is his last chance for a future of happiness.
Jenny Keeble has never let her humble upbringing stop her. She’s made her way in the world as a fortune teller, on her convinces her clients her predictions are correct by telling them what they most want to hear. Business is good….until she meets her match in the form of Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a scientist and sworn bachelor.
He just doesn’t know it yet.
Broodingly handsome, Gareth is appalled to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of Madame Esmerala and he vows to prove her a fraud. But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic. Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth’s calculated plan – until he can’t decide whether to ruin her or claim her for his own. Now as the engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know… and the boundless possibilities of love.
My Thoughts: It took me a while to get into this one. I started it some time ago and just wasn’t in the mood for a historical book. I’ve noticed that my consumption of historicals is way down in the past several years. And since I was reading a Historical book while being in a Contemporary/RS mood, it just wasn’t working for me. Nevertheless, I kept it in my purse as a back-up and good thing I did!! I was at lunch the other day reading a RS book on my Kobo when it went dead. That’s one of the drawbacks of an ereader, at least the kind I have. When it decides it needs recharging, that’s it – it won’t turn a page. I was at the start of lunch and I’d already read the Avon magazine so I reached in the purse and picked out this one. And what a difference a mood can make. I don’t know if it was the mood or it started out slow, but when I picked it up again and started reading, I really started enjoying it.
Jenny Meeks is a con artist. She has been posing for years as a fortune teller, Madame Esmerelda. She isn’t really malicious or out to scam people. She just needs to make a living and there weren’t a lot of options for many women back then. For a few years, she has been the ‘spiritual’ guide for a young man named Ned who had suffered from dark depression. She gave him hope in his live while taking his silver. But when his ‘oh so starchy’ cousin, Gareth, the marquis of Blakely, becomes aware of what’s going on, he is determined to expose Madame Esmerelda as a fraud. But Esmerelda is not quite what he expects and he’s not quite the callous and unfeeling marquis that she at first thinks.
She sets out setting some tasks for Gareth to accomplish and while in one way they were kind of amusing, in another I was a bit worried that they would take over the story. But thankfully it doesn’t. Part of why it took a while to get into this one was at first glance both Blakely and Madame Esmeralda aren’t really that sympathetic of characters. But once I got deeper into the storyline, I saw that they were both wearing masks, hiding their real selves.
The Marquis of Blakely was really Gareth, a simple man with a definite scientific bent. He was raised by his cold and unfeeling grandfather who attempted to leach all humanity out of a young Gareth. He’s not the cold, unfeeling person we first think he is, rather he just doesn’t know how to relate to people; how to make friends. So he’s cloaked himself in a veneer of coldness.
And Madame Esmerelda is really Jenny Meek, a young woman with a mysterious and unknown past. We never find out where she came from, but when she was four she was placed in a rather posh private school and raised with a modicum of respectability but not much practical knowledge. As I was reading, after we get to know her better, to me she was a ‘by-blow’ of an aristocrat and some unknown mother who either died in childbirth or didn’t want to be bothered with a child. Instead of a rather charming, yet scheming charlatan, she is a very caring person who has done the best she can with the circumstances she faces.
Both are truly wonderful, lonely, seeking people under their masks. The way the layers are slowly peeled back to reveal different people reminds me of the writing of one of my favourite authors Jo Goodman. This is a smaller, shorter book so those bothered by the density of Ms. Goodmans writing needn’t worry about in this book. Sometimes it’s a bit intimidating when reading a book by an author you’ve met and liked, but in this case I shouldn’t have worried. I loved the book and look forward to the next one, Ned’s book.
The grade would have been higher but since I was able to put it down for a while, I’m not sure if it was me or it had a bit of a slow start. But once I got a bit further, I couldn’t put it down and that’s the sign of a very good story.
Grade: 4.50 out of 5