Title: Mad About the Marquess
Author: Elizabeth Essex
This book came to me highly rated. Absolute rave reviews. Perhaps if I hadn’t been expecting so much . . .
The heroine is basically a 1790s Robin Hood. Stealing from the rich to give to the poor. She starts out as a small time thief, pilfering snuff boxes and the like from parties, then graduates to highway robbery. Yeah, not attempted highway robbery, but full blown hanging offense highway robbery.
The dialogue is good, with sass and wit interwoven. I like sassy characters, spunky characters, and I was in love with the book up to the highway robberies. At that point, I felt like the author had gone too far with the heroine for her and the hero (who is supposed to be ferreting out this petty thief, then shoots the highwayman) to ever get together. Especially as the romance between them had really just started to progress when suddenly its revealed she’s his petty thief, and shortly thereafter, he discovers she’s the highwayman.
For a man who hates deception, is supposed to be “the law”, I just can’t believe that he’d marry her to save her. Especially as he doesn’t know that she is playing robin hood – her motives are not revealed to him until the end. And somehow marrying her saves his name, too, because of the scandal from his youth. Still not entirely sure how marrying her saves her from the law . . . Maybe I misunderstood that part. The whole “scandal” around him from his youth felt contrived, too. His “friend” raped a girl and then blackmails the hero for trying to help the girl he raped?!? How does that translate to a scandal wrapped around the hero’s neck? If you’re going to give the hero a sordid past he’s overcome, give him a sordid past. I rather like the wholesome, do-gooder type, but redeemed heroes can be sexy, too.
I really like the hero, too … up until he throws away all of his morals and being an upstanding politician of exacting scruples for a woman he is just starting to have feelings for.
I was devouring this book, unable to tear myself away, through the whole first half. After the highwayman bit, I actually put it down for a week before coming back to it and making myself finish. The ending is fine, but that’s just it. Fine. Okay. Pretty Good. The beginning was spectacular. I wish the author would have spent more time developing the romance and chemistry and saved the highwayman bit until much later. Late enough that I would believe the hero loved her so much he was willing to look past a hanging offense crime.
- Heroine is mostly likable. She’s strong, intelligent and sassy. She does good things, for somewhat, but not entirely, good reasons. Makes her human.
- There is growing chemistry between the hero and the heroine in the first half of the book.
- I genuinely liked the hero. He is honest and passionate about his work in parliament, including abolition. Would have liked him even more without the “scandal” I didn’t really think was a scandal.
- There is only one steamy scene, but its very well done.
- The first part of the plot with the petty theft was fun.
- The dialogue is excellent.
- I also like that the heroine’s mother and sister are portrayed as intelligent.
- I never understood why she stole the buttons from the hero when the rest of the story has her as a thief of opportunity – stealing left behind snuff boxes and the like. Not cutting buttons off of clothes currently being worn . . . Plot device, clearly, but not one that makes sense.
- The hero and heroine needed more history and more chemistry before he saves her from being a petty thief and a Highwayman.
- Building this chemistry would have added to the romance, which I felt was needed. A few stolen kisses in the garden to marriage? Really? The romance felt like an afterthought to a rather outrageous plot.
- Never understood why someone as well connected, landed, titled, etc. as the hero is searching for a petty thief.
- The plot is almost too over the top. At least for me. In the real robin hood, you root for him because you hate the Sheriff of Nottingham so much. Makes it easier to accept armed robbery. Again, this could just be me. I had no real issue with the petty theft, even of expensive items, but the full on armed robbery . . .
- For a mother who is on to her over so many other little things, I can’t believe she never noticed her daughter’s thefts over the course of 3 years.
- I have never met a reverend as observant about who put offerings into their poor box, or as tenacious . . .really, sending street urchins to follow her and spy on her? Because they totally can do this across town while she rides in a coach and they run after her.
- I can’t believe her father is as aloof and uncaring as he appears. Maybe appropriate for the times, but it felt jarring.
All in, it’s a good read. I would’ve probably liked it better if I hadn’t gone into it with such high expectations.