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A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant (some mild spoilers)
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msaggie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 693

PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:28 pm    Post subject: A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant (some mild spoilers) Reply with quote

I really enjoyed Cecilia Grant's debut, A Lady Awakened, and finally read the second book in the series A Gentleman Undone over the weekend. I am prone to series-itis, and so I was rather apprehensive. I agree totally with Blythe's review here at AAR, and there are also more detailed reviews elsewhere (such as at Dear Author by Janet here http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-b-reviews/b-minus-reviews/review-a-gentleman-undone-by-cecelia-grant/). So often the romances that are available nowadays are very predictable, and there are certain "taboo" plot-lines - and I am really glad that Cecilia Grant was not asked to change the storyline in A Gentleman Undone to make it more conventional. Here is a heroine who is a true prostitute, a real high-class kept woman, who has had a succession of lordly keepers. I have enjoyed prostitute or courtesan romances before - e.g. Mary Balogh's A Secret Pearl and A Precious Jewel, Loretta Chase's Your Scandalous Ways - but in A Gentleman Undone, the heroine Lydia, continues to sleep with, and enjoy sex with her protector throughout the majority of the book. Won't that kill a romance? I had thought that it would, which shows me how wrong I am. Later on in the book, as she falls in love with the hero, Will, she does feel more disinclined to have sex with her protector (but she still does it and enjoys it, as it's her livelihood). I think this novel illustrates well that sex is not love, and one can enjoy sex without being in love with the person one is having sex with. This message seems to be diluted in many of today's romances (where the message seems to be love=good sex, and good sex=love). It juxtaposes well with Cecilia Grant's first book, A Lady Awakened, where there is a lot of sex between the main protagonists, and little enjoyment of it, especially from the heroine's point of view, until she falls in love with the hero. I also liked how in A Gentleman Undone, another great taboo of romance is dealt with - the infertile heroine. Here again, there is no miraculous pregnancy in the epilogue.

Quite apart from these taboo plotlines, this book has main protagonists who have a lot of baggage, and it's definitely not a light read. I am no statistics expert, but the odds calculations and card counting in Blackjack (or 21, which is what they are playing to win their fortune here) is fascinating to me. Where in A Lady Awakened readers were exposed to treatise on agriculture (which I skipped, for most part), here we have detailed explanations of odds in a card game. I think if you are planning a trip to Vegas or Monte Carlo, it would be good to read those parts - quite educational, but I would not be able to apply them without a calculator.

This is a very unusual romance, but thoroughly enjoyable. It has its weaknesses, but I would still recommend it highly. The third book in this series is out next spring, and I am not certain which member of the Blackshear family is featured, as the snippet did not make it clear. It has another well-run trope - the gold-digger (i.e. heroine who wants to marry for position and money). I wonder if she ends up with Will's brother Nick?
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Trish B



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I enjoyed both of Ms Grant's books, though the tone of each is very different. She's an author to watch and, yes, I believe the next book is about Nick.
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Natalie



Joined: 25 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She's definitely one of the few authors that try to break the mold.

I liked both books although I've yet to read a DIK (but a solid B is an achievement these days).
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Natalie



Joined: 25 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The next book is definitely about Nick.

http://www.ceciliagrant.com/woman-entangled.php
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Shaanny



Joined: 29 Sep 2012
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:37 am    Post subject: Let's Talk Romance Novels Forum Reply with quote

I have also red it and i liked it.These are nice to read. Smile
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JMM



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 510

PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Ms. Grant is a good writer, and I am glad to see new books that don't follow the same old, same old feisty virgin/jaded rake-spy.


But as I sad in another forum, I found it hard to believe that the heroine....


SPOILERS;

would willingly give money to the hero's friend's widow instead of putting it away for herself.

The woman had a child and a secure home.

The heroine lost her home, her fertility and was forced into prostitution.

I found the widow irritating myself, I find it hard to believe the heroine would feel sorry for her.
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chris booklover



Joined: 12 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked the writing much more than I did the story. The main issue with the plot is that as in Cecilia Grant's first book A Lady Awakened it relied on the trope that the hero will fall desperately, crazily and head over heels in love with a difficult heroine, and do all the emotional work and take all the emotional risks needed to create and sustain the relationship.

Several Romance bloggers have stated that they like difficult or even unlikable heroines. This is all well and good, but in a romance the hero and heroine have to fall in love with each other. A reader should not have to ask "What does she see in him?" or "What does he see in her?" In practice the two questions are not quite symmetrical, because difficult or unlikable heroes usually have qualities that women admire and this makes the love story plausible. (They are almost always attractive, charming, wealthy, high-status men). Moreover, they are almost always the ones doing the chasing, and they generally have to change before they attain their HEA.

The converse is not generally true. Difficult heroines often do not have the qualities that men find most attractive.

SPOILER ALERT

In A Lady Awakened Theo falls head over heels in love with Martha despite her coldness towards him, confesses his love and offers to marry her. She rejects him on several occasions, but he STILL hangs around protecting her and the women in her household. He does leave the village briefly, but finds that he can't stay away from Martha and returns before long. In A Gentleman Undone Will does not care that Lydia is having hot sex with her protector while he is relegated to the comforts of his hand (he even rejects an offer of sex from an attractive woman). He doesn't care that Lydia fleeces him at cards, or that she cannot have children or that by marrying her he is jeopardizing his nieces' future marriage prospects. He lurves her too much for any of those considerations to matter.

Obviously this type of story will work if you find Will or Theo's behavior plausible. There are SOME men like that, but even they tend to commit to women who are, shall we say, somewhat less challenging. In any event, relying on the noble and self-sacrificing hero to make a plot with a difficult heroine work is a bit like playing tennis with the net down.
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willaful



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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did find Theo falling in love with Martha plausible. She was the first person who ever took him seriously, which is something he desperately needed. Some expansion in my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/204665123
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LFL



Joined: 05 May 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Willaful re. ALA. And in AGU, I thought it was actually a turn on for Will to see Lydia having hot sex with her protector. Not the protector himself, but Lydia's open enjoyment of sex was part of what attracted to Will.

Ditto her fleecing him -- he may not have liked it, but he wanted ot know how she did it, and she taught him. He admired her keen intelligence and her boldness, which were evident in these actions.

As for her infertility, I felt he was okay with that because he didn't feel he had much to offer a child. Lydia and Will came together because they were both scarred. The scars that the loss of her child (and her parents and brother) left on Lydia spoke to Will because he too knew what it was like to be haunted by deaths of people you cared for or felt responsible for.

So all these things you saw as turnoffs, I actually saw as part of what attracted to Will to Lydia. Her appeal to him was in some ways easier for me to understand than his appeal to her, although I did feel they were each what the other needed.

I liked this book a whole lot, though not quite as much as ALA. I'd give it a B+.
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chris booklover



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

willaful wrote:
I did find Theo falling in love with Martha plausible. She was the first person who ever took him seriously, which is something he desperately needed.


Um .... you don't fall in love with someone simply because he or she takes you seriously. At least most people don't. You might respect and admire the other person, but that is a long, long way from romantic attraction. And it's even less likely that Theo would continue to pursue Martha after she rejected him several times.

LFL wrote:
I agree with Willaful re. ALA. And in AGU, I thought it was actually a turn on for Will to see Lydia having hot sex with her protector. Not the protector himself, but Lydia's open enjoyment of sex was part of what attracted to Will.

Ditto her fleecing him -- he may not have liked it, but he wanted ot know how she did it, and she taught him. He admired her keen intelligence and her boldness, which were evident in these actions.

As for her infertility, I felt he was okay with that because he didn't feel he had much to offer a child. Lydia and Will came together because they were both scarred. The scars that the loss of her child (and her parents and brother) left on Lydia spoke to Will because he too knew what it was like to be haunted by deaths of people you cared for or felt responsible for.

So all these things you saw as turnoffs, I actually saw as part of what attracted to Will to Lydia. Her appeal to him was in some ways easier for me to understand than his appeal to her, although I did feel they were each what the other needed.

I liked this book a whole lot, though not quite as much as ALA. I'd give it a B+.


Will, as you have described him, is a most unusual character. There are certainly some men who are turned on by the idea of the woman they love having sex with another man (see Ogas and Gaddam's discussion of cuckold porn in A Billion Wicked Thoughts) but they are a tiny minority consisting almost exclusively of fetishists. Most men's (or women's) reaction to being fleeced would not be to admire the fleecer's "keen intelligence and boldness." I can understand Will not wanting children, but his lack of concern about the effects that his marriage to Lydia would have on his nieces' prospects is more difficult to accept. Above all, it's basically the COMBINATION of all these qualities that seems implausible.

These plot elements are not necessarily turn-offs for me personally. I simply find them implausible. It's not that Martha or Lydia could not be heroines - just that their paths to an HEA are overly dependent on some very atypical behavior by their heroes. Let's put it this way. In every romance the hero and the heroine must come to love each other. If you have a "difficult," not to mention unlikable heroine (or hero), then you have to show why the other person loves the protagonist. In both her novels Cecilia Grant solves the problem simply by having her heroes fall head over heels in love with difficult heroines. These heroes do all the emotional work and take all the emotional risks needed to create and sustain the romance. I did not find either scenario particularly plausible, and IMO both novels would have been much more rewarding if their heroes had been less complaisant and the couples had been forced to negotiate the terms of their relationship. YMMV, and I suspect that I'm in a minority on this issue.
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erika



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Curious, if the characters of this romance were reversed would the readers who liked this book still have the same feeings?
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chris booklover wrote:
willaful wrote:
I did find Theo falling in love with Martha plausible. She was the first person who ever took him seriously, which is something he desperately needed.


Um .... you don't fall in love with someone simply because he or she takes you seriously. At least most people don't. You might respect and admire the other person, but that is a long, long way from romantic attraction. And it's even less likely that Theo would continue to pursue Martha after she rejected him several times.


I think the romantic attraction already existed -- he agreed to have sex with her, after all. The respect and admiration on top of that was what caused them to fall in love. And the pursuit happened after he was already in love with her, and while she was pregnant with his child. I don't find that unusual or hard to understand.

chris booklover wrote:
Will, as you have described him, is a most unusual character. There are certainly some men who are turned on by the idea of the woman they love having sex with another man (see Ogas and Gaddam's discussion of cuckold porn in A Billion Wicked Thoughts) but they are a tiny minority consisting almost exclusively of fetishists.


The scene in which Will sees them having sex happens when he barely knows Lydia. It's not accurate to describe her as the woman he loves at that point. I don't specifically remember, but I'm pretty sure he experiences jealousy about her protector later, when he actually has feelings for her.
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willaful



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chris booklover wrote:
willaful wrote:
I did find Theo falling in love with Martha plausible. She was the first person who ever took him seriously, which is something he desperately needed.


Um .... you don't fall in love with someone simply because he or she takes you seriously. At least most people don't. You might respect and admire the other person, but that is a long, long way from romantic attraction. And it's even less likely that Theo would continue to pursue Martha after she rejected him several times.


I think the romantic attraction already existed -- he agreed to have sex with her, after all. The respect and admiration on top of that was what caused them to fall in love. And the pursuit happened after he was already in love with her, and while she was pregnant with his child. I don't find that unusual or hard to understand.

chris booklover wrote:
Will, as you have described him, is a most unusual character. There are certainly some men who are turned on by the idea of the woman they love having sex with another man (see Ogas and Gaddam's discussion of cuckold porn in A Billion Wicked Thoughts) but they are a tiny minority consisting almost exclusively of fetishists.


The scene in which Will sees them having sex happens when he barely knows Lydia. It's not accurate to describe her as the woman he loves at that point. I don't specifically remember, but I'm pretty sure he experiences jealousy about her protector later, when he actually has feelings for her.
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desiderata



Joined: 23 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris, thank you for your posts. I was considering A Gentleman Undone, but after reading more about the h/h relationship, I think I would actively dislike this book. It's great to have the anti-marysue as heroine, but I agree the author has to work extra hard to make such a love story work for me as a reader. Beta heroes are well and good, but I have a very hard time believing a hero is attracted to someone who cheated him of money he really needs, or that he's going to be ok with the woman he loves continuing to have hot sex with another man well into their relationship. Will sounds like he has issues and that's why he loves Lydia. It just doesn't seem romantic or enjoyable to me.
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

desiderata wrote:
Chris, thank you for your posts. I was considering A Gentleman Undone, but after reading more about the h/h relationship, I think I would actively dislike this book. It's great to have the anti-marysue as heroine, but I agree the author has to work extra hard to make such a love story work for me as a reader. Beta heroes are well and good, but I have a very hard time believing a hero is attracted to someone who cheated him of money he really needs, or that he's going to be ok with the woman he loves continuing to have hot sex with another man well into their relationship. Will sounds like he has issues and that's why he loves Lydia. It just doesn't seem romantic or enjoyable to me.


I really don't think that's a fair appraisal of the book or the character. Will is very angry about being cheated when it happens and I'm really pretty sure he is not okay with her having sex with the other guy "well into the relationship." Events happen over time, feelings change over time, and it doesn't represent the the book correctly to jumble them all together as if they were all simultaneous.
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