Friday, December 15, 2017

How to Manage a Marquess - Sally MacKenzie (Zebra - May 2016)

Series: Spinster House (Book 2)

Two possible futures loom before Miss Anne Davenport. The first option: sharing an unhappy home with her father and soon-to-be stepmother. The second: a life of independence at the Spinster House--if only her friend, Cat, would vacate the premises and marry the Duke of Hart. A well-placed whisper about the pair's secret tryst might speed the course of true love. But the duke's stubborn cousin poses an obstacle. A ridiculously handsome, very persuasive obstacle…

Nate, Marquess of Haywood, has spent his life looking out for the duke, hoping to stave off a family curse. The only way to keep his cousin alive is to keep him single. That means convincing the intriguing Miss Davenport that her lovely lips could be put to far better use than gossiping. Kissing, for instance. In fact, Nate is beginning to hope that Miss Davenport's destiny lies not in the Spinster House at all, but with him …

Good continuation of the series. This book, about the second of the women vying for the Spinster House, takes place at the same time as the first book (What to Do with a Duke). Anne really wants to be the one chosen to live in Spinster House, as her father is about to remarry - to a woman younger than Anne, with two young sons. The thought of living with them horrifies her. Unfortunately, her friend Cat is the one chosen, leaving Anne stuck at home. That is unless she can encourage Cat to marry the Duke of Hart. But as much as she wants the marriage to happen, the duke's cousin is equally determined that it won't.

Nate has spent his entire life watching out for Marcus. The family curse, which states that no Duke of Hart will live to see his heir born, has been in effect for 200 years. The only way to keep Marcus alive is to keep him single for as long as possible. Which means he has to keep Anne from talking about the tryst that she witnessed.

I really enjoyed the development of Anne and Nate's relationship. It started out quite antagonistic, as each was determined to get their own way. But under that initial antagonism is an undeniable attraction. It gets quite a jump start in the garden of Spinster House, as a confrontation over the tryst they witness turns heated, then passionate. Their argument is interrupted when the cat, Poppy, succeeds in causing them to trip and fall, landing in a very provocative position. Nate's "male instincts" take over and things nearly got out of hand. They manage to extricate themselves with no harm done, but forgetting is another question entirely.

Nate and Anne part ways, only to meet unexpectedly at a house party. I felt bad for Anne at this point, because it quickly becomes obvious that her father's relationship with the widow has moved much faster than she thought and an announcement was imminent. Nate was there as a family friend, filling in for another family member who backed out at the last minute. There was also some awkwardness as the other members of the house party do everything they can to throw Nate and Anne together. He saw the writing on the wall and tried to save Anne from embarrassment. The dinner scene was pretty funny as Anne imbibed a bit too much and Nate tried to stop her. I also loved Nate's sensitivity and kindness as he got Anne away quickly after the announcement. I loved seeing them in the garden as Anne lost many of her inhibitions thanks to the alcohol consumed, and Nate tried so hard to resist. His care for her under difficult circumstances is pretty sweet.

As the party goes on Nate and Anne spend more time together under some pretty unusual circumstances. I loved their time together with the widow's sons, who brought out the best in both Anne and Nate. I loved seeing the protectiveness that both displayed toward the boys and each other. Anne realizes that she has fallen in love with Nate. He is a bit freaked out about his feelings, especially since he sees no way for them to be together while he watches out for Marcus.

When Anne's reputation is threatened, Nate seizes the opportunity to propose marriage and is stunned when she turns him down. Though he returns to London and tries to resume his normal life, things just aren't the same. It gets worse when Marcus states his intention to marry Cat, and Nate blames Anne. He makes a bit of an ass of himself at the wedding, before realizing that he needs to apologize to Anne. I loved the help he had from a certain cat, who made sure they spent enough time together to face their feelings.

I liked both Anne and Nate though I had some issues with each of them also. Anne was sweet and kind most of the time but did have moments of selfishness too. I understood her fear that her father was being taken advantage of since the widow was so much younger, but she also didn't seem to understand that maybe he was lonely. I liked that Anne became a little more sympathetic after Nate talked to her. Nate was an honorable man who was also loyal to those he cared about. He was a bit overprotective of Marcus thanks to the fear instilled in him by his mother, and I completely understood Marcus's frustration. Nate's attraction to and fascination with Anne was fun to watch, especially when the attraction would get out of hand. His conversations with his "man parts" were hysterical as he would try to get himself under control.

Throughout the story, Anne's father really ticked me off. He didn't seem to take her feelings into consideration at all. I didn't expect him to give up his plans, but it looked like he was doing his best to shove Anne out the door as fast as he could. I hated the way he treated her at the house party. I didn't care for the widow either. She made no effort to get to know Anne and seemed to be the driving force behind shoving Anne toward Nate.

I'm looking forward to the last book in the series and seeing what happens with Jane. She seemed to be a little too willing to do anything to get her way as far as getting Spinster House went. It will be interesting to see what love has in store for her.

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