Genre: historical romance
She was his last chance for a future of happiness.
A gifted fortune-teller from a humble background, Jenny can make even the most sophisticated sceptic believe her predictions simply by batting her smoky eyelashes. Until she meets her match in Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a sworn bachelor and scientist.
He just didn't know it yet.
Broodingly handsome, Gareth is scandalized to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of "Madame Esmeralda," and vows to prove Jenny 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 seduce her or ruin her. Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know... and the boundless possibilities of love.
I have read a lot of enthusiastic reviews about the books by Courtney Milan, so I had to try her out when I was in the mood for an historical romance. Unfortunately, it was not as fun and lighthearted as I had hoped, but rather heavy on the emotions and feelings. So the book made my cry instead of smile.
Jenny does not want to be a man’s mistress, and with her background, she will not be able to get a good job as a governess or ladies companion. And as people are always lying, why won’t she lie to them as well? And so the idea of Madame Esmeralda is born. Posing as a fortuneteller Jenny is making a nice living. She has some regular clients, who need her advice on most things in their life, and Jenny is only to happy to tell them what they want to hear.
Like young Ned Carhart. He first came to see her when he was 19, and depressed, ready to commit suicide. So she told him that she saw happiness in his future, that he would become a good man. When Ned’s cousin, Lord Gareth Carhart, Marquess of Blakely, finds out, he is very displeased about it all, and sets out to reveal her as a fraud. And he will use scientific methods to prove it.
Jenny is not stupid though, and she sees through him. So she predicts he will see the woman who is to be his bride at the next ball, at a certain time. And to win her, he will have to perform three tasks. But Gareth is not dumb either, and he insists she accompanies them to the ball, so she can point out the woman in question to him. He even takes her to a modiste to buy a new gown, suitable for a ball. But instead of something of the latest fashion, Jenny buy something simple and practical, something she can put on by herself, as she of course does not have a servant to help her.
I did like Jenny, she is very bold and does rash things to make Gareth see her way of thinking. Like demonstrating how it is impossible to dress herself in the dress he insists she wears to the next ball. She plainly tells him what she thinks of him, and that is something Gareth is really not used to. He can’t even admit to himself that he is lonely, that he has no friends, and gets angry when he realizes the truth in her words. I liked the strange challenges she gives him, and how he conquers them. No one dares to criticize a Marquess in public, so he gets away with his strange behaviour.
As the charade continues, Jenny and Gareth are drawn closer and closer. But Jenny refuses to become his mistress, and Gareth thinks that as he is a Marquess, there is no one equal to him, let alone a woman posing as a gypsy fortune teller! Jenny does feel guilty and weary about lying, about wearing a mask at all times. Especially when Ned keeps believing in her, and even tries to get her predictions come true by pursuing the lady in question on his cousin’s behalf. And doing a very lousy job of it, especially when he wants to manoeuvre them in a compromising situation.
As said, I did like Jenny. I am sorry though that she gave up on being Madame Esmeralda so easy, and how very unpractical she can be. And I did hope she would have stood up to that obnoxious man at the bank. Of course, when Gareth finally found out, he took care of it for her (behind her back) in a really grand way.
Gareth has totally no idea how to interact with people, he was brought up by his grandfather, believing he is superior to everyone else. He does not even know the names of most of his servants. But he takes his responsibilities as their lord very serious, even though he would rather spend time on his bird migration research, every afternoon is spend on estate management.
And then there is Ned, the young cousin. A very strange person, bound to depressions. The next book is about him, and I am so very curious what happens to him and his unwanted bride. I look forward to getting to know her better, and what she was doing when they met that first time. And the second time.
I liked the book, but was certainly not blown away by it. Even though it kept surprising me, and whenever I thought something would happen, like Gareth finding out who her parents are/were, I was wrong. He did not find out (perhaps in the next book). Perhaps because I was in the mood for something a bit lighter than what I got. But still, this is a good book, very well written and it did keep me captivated for quite some time. I will certainly read more books by Courtney Milan.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian