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A Will of Her Own is part romance, part mystery – and when I say that, it really truly is halfway between, since neither the romance nor the mystery were the sole focus of the story. But if I had to really settle on one, I was more entertained with the mystery… which really doesn’t bode well for the romance part.
Lord Andrew Aragon, a semi-rake (a man who does all the rakish things but gets tired of it after awhile), is gambling with two gentlemen, one of whom is Sir Everard Balfour, a shady man whose company Andrew would rather not keep. But it is sort of explained that he is forced to by the Prince Regent himself, though he himself wonders why he is being asked to do so. I might have missed the part where the relationship between the King and Andrew is explained – because I wondered throughout what the reason for Andrew’s forced association with Sir Everard was.
But, as it happens, Sir Everard has a ward – Miss Patricia Mayfair, a lovely bluestocking and an heiress to boot! Andrew, who has money of his own isn't overly concerned with Patricia being a heiress – it’s the fact that she can hold an intelligent conversation that impresses the heck out of him and he decides right then and there that he is smitten. Patricia thinks Andrew is the greatest thing since sliced bread too (hmm… maybe they didn’t have that in Regency England yet?!), and is sorely disappointed to hear that he gambles casually. Since she has the lowest regard for her guardian, Sir Everard, a noted gambler whom she blames for leading her brother Ambrose astray which eventually led to his death, she has decided that she wants nothing to do with a man who gambles at all and proceeds to avoid Andrew on their next meeting. Upon hearing Patricia’s displeasure at his gambling habits, casual though as it may be, Andrew solves the problem by quitting gambling altogether. Problem solved, romantic conflict ends. On to the mystery….
I’m not even going to explain the mystery part except to say that Sir Everard is lower than a snake’s belly but looks quite piggy and Andrew’s ex-mistress, who can be likened to Cruella DeVille, team up. Together, they plot against the happy couple and this is where you turn the pages (or scroll the screen, in this case) to find out what the heck those two are up to. It’s the evil odd couple in regency England!
I found Lord Andrew to be a dichotomy – in public, he’s the very image of a successful, arrogant, noble lord; he gambles and is referenced to be a regular womanizer, drinker and all around “guy”. While in private, conversing with his valet Gaston, he sounds like a pansy. For example,
“…Oh, Gaston, what am I to do? I verily believe that I have fallen in love, at first glance. What a henwit, what a ninnyhammer, what a fleawit fool I am."
Yes, well, I would agree on the ninnyhammer bit. A hero who talks like that sounds a bit… uhm… effeminate. However, he has a totally different persona when hanging around with the guys, and he comes through in true heroic fashion so he proves his masculinity quite well in the end. I’m also ambivalent about another aspect of his character as a hero – as a devoted fan of the alpha male, I wasn’t quite sure whether or not I like the fact that he was “whupped” quickly – while this works for me in real life, it sounds really wussy in print. The heroine, Patricia, however, is smart, independent and constant – both are likeable and appealing in their own way.
Nevertheless, A Will of Her Own has all the elements – sweet romance, attractive characters, (and successfully repulsive villains!) and a satisfactory mystery plot – to make it a pleasant lazy afternoon read.