Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Major Meets His Match - Annie Burrows (HH #1345 - Sept 2017)

Series: Brides for Bachelors (Book 1)

The major must wed

Wastrel, rebel, layabout…just a few of the names Lord Becconsall has hidden his quick intellect and sharp wit behind over the years. Recently titled, ex-military and required to wed, Jake views ton ladies with a cynical eye… Until he falls upon -- quite literally -- Lady Harriet Inskip.

After years of being overlooked, Harriet cannot believe that Lord Becconsall is the only person to truly see her. But between his taunts and her fiery disposition, it's soon clear that the major has finally met his match!

Good book. Harriet and Jack appear to be opposites at first glance. Harriet is young, innocent but also spirited, and rather stubborn. Raised in the country, she has had no training in what is expected of girls when they enter Society, instead experiencing a somewhat unusual upbringing. She has come to London with her aunt and cousin to participate in the Season but finds herself chafing at the restrictions placed on her by her aunt. She sneaks out one morning for a rousing ride, which is where she meets Jack.

Jack has recently and unexpectedly inherited the title, making it necessary for him to leave the army career that he liked. He has a reputation for being lazy and rebellious, and with the ascension to the title "encouraged" to marry as soon as possible. He has no intention of doing so, as he likes his life just as it is. He has recently reunited with three friends from school, though getting to know each other as adults has been a challenging undertaking. An all-night, drunken carouse and ill-advised wager has Jack literally falling at Harriet's feet.

Jack and his friends do not make a good first impression on Harriet. She is disgusted by his apparent disregard for the horse or the safety of those he encounters. She is stunned when he grabs her and kisses her, though she can't deny that he stirs up an unexpected reaction. His equally intoxicated friends make untoward comments to and about her. I enjoyed seeing her stand up to them, before fleeing their company. She has made a completely different impression on Jack, however, who defends her to his friends and is determined to find out who she is.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Harriet and Jack. They meet at various Society events where the sparks between them fly. Jack insists on teasing her, gaining great enjoyment from making her lose her temper, while Harriet gives as good as she gets when she can no longer hold back. But there is more going on than appears. Jack's seemingly juvenile teasing hides a lack of confidence in himself. As the youngest and smallest of three brothers, he was bullied by his brothers and regarded with disgust by his father, who called him "the runt of the litter." This continued through school, where he used humor and clowning around to distract those who tormented him. Even as an adult and military officer, he hid his emotions and intelligence behind a wall of foolishness as a way to avoid being rejected. Even his friends occasionally forget which is the real Jack. Harriet also feels out of her depth. As the only girl with three older brothers, she has felt ignored and invisible for most of her life. Her father has only been interested in his three sons. Her mother, who has a brilliant scientific mind, is oblivious to her obligations, leaving Harriet to fend for herself. She is stuck taking care of the household until her aunt sweeps her away to London. Though her aunt means well, her words frequently add to Harriet's feelings of inadequacy. Once Harriet and Jack begin to spend time together their teasing turns to friendship. I liked seeing them recognize their similarities and how that added to their growing feelings for each other. It was a little amusing to see Jack panic a bit when he realized that he was thinking about her far more than he was comfortable with. He is also surprised by the protectiveness he feels toward her. I loved his insistence on helping her with her quest, and his rather ingenious method of convincing her to let his friends help. I liked the ending, as they easily slipped into sharing hopes and ideas for their future.

I liked seeing the various relationships among the characters in the story. Jack's relationships with his three friends are at times close and at others quite awkward. His friend Zeus was especially irritating with his cynical attitude and arrogant behavior. I would have thoroughly disliked him, except for one incident that made him much more human and sympathetic. There was a scene involving the stakes of a wager that had Harriet dissolved in laughter and Jack's friends looking rather sheepish. I ached for Jack and the effect his father's attitude had on him. Harriet's mother annoyed me a lot. She was self-absorbed and rude. She had one brief instance of standing up for Harriet, but even that seemed to have selfish undertones. I wasn't too sure about Harriet's Aunt Susan at first, but she turned out to be pretty sweet. I liked the way that she wanted to give Harriet a chance to find a good husband. I liked Harriet's determination to repay her by clearing her name. Harriet's uncle was obnoxious through most of the book. I thought he was a terrible bully, to both Harriet and Aunt Susan.

There was an interesting secondary story regarding some missing jewels that contributed to Harriet's issues with her aunt and uncle. I liked the way that Harriet wanted to help, though her initial attempts got her into trouble. I liked Jack's protectiveness as he insisted on helping her and getting his friends involved also. There are some good leads that come to light, enabling Harriet to help her aunt. However, the mystery is not fully resolved, so I expect there will be more revealed in the next book.

I do have one concern that lingers after finishing the book. This is the first of a trilogy involving Jack and his three friends. Four men, three books - who gets left out and why?

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