The difference between infatuation and love was never so clear to me as it was once I had finished reading A Gentleman at Heart. And I am not talking about the characters, sadly, Iím talking about myself. I was absolutely convinced I was in love with this book the moment I read the teasing little excerpt at the beginning, yet by the time I was halfway through, it took considerable effort to get to the end, and I felt a little cheated.
In this book, weíre given the spirited Wynne Bedegrayne and a lowborn ex-boxer Keanan Milroy. She seems destined for spinsterhood since her determination and intelligence frighten off all her suitors, and he, of course, is someone who worked his way up from nothing and, in his own words, never refuses a challenge or an offer. Their first encounters and the beginning of their strange courtship are both playful and intriguing and had me nearly riveted, and the pacing was so well done here that I could see the hints of all the complications to come without anything being given away too soon.
Keanan is the illegitimate son of a well known wastrel duke, and has sworn revenge against the duke and his family for abandoning his mother years before, It doesnít take him long before he realizes that Wynne has attracted the attention of the dukeís legitimate son, and disgracing her would further his cause. Unfortunately, his feelings for her keep getting in the way of his rather heartless plan to seduce and abandon her. Meanwhile, society itself is working against the two would-be lovers, with class and cultural differences keeping them apart, as well as the members of the Bedegrayne family. (Brief note: Wynneís brother-in-law and hero of the previous book about the Bedegrayne family is Lord Tipton and about him I have three words, humina, humina, and humina). It becomes up to Wynne to convince both Keanan and her family that he does not need revenge or even societyís approval, and that he is, as the title suggests, a gentleman at heart.
The writing and detail throughout the book were, with one exception, fabulous, and it was great to see a writer not get the Regency Period and the Victorian Era confused, with nice earthy language and behavior. My main problem with this book, and the thing that sent me spiraling down from clouds of bliss into a funk of disappointment, was the love scene occurring about halfway through the story. I feel bad about saying it, but honestly, those scenes came close to ruining the entire book for me. Not only was it an extremely awkwardly described encounter that lacked, at least for me, passion or even romance as well as the authorís usual grace and spirit, but afterwards, the heroine seemed to lose her spark, which meant the book lost its spark. Apparently, what was unarousing for me as a reader was so arousing to the character that she couldnít summon the energy to complain or even protest much of anything else that Keanan did after that point, and he did some pretty awful things. After their moment of ďpassionĒ, there was an abrupt transition from an exciting courtship and seduction to angst-ridden melodrama, something that seemed so incomprehensible to me that Iím still in shock.
Nevertheless, I can look back now on my relationship with the book and honestly say that Iíd permit my girlfriends to read it. There is a lot to be said for it, and, personal disappointment aside, Iím going to have to look for the earlier Bedegrayne love story by Barbara Pierce and find out more about Tipton. I think Iím in love already.