Title: Blame It on Bath
Series: The Truth About the Duke #2
Author: Caroline Linden
Genre: Historical, Regency
Gerard de Lacey is determined to find the man who tried to blackmail his late father, both to stop the blackmail and to discover—and dispose of—any evidence the villain has about his father’s clandestine first marriage. If that proof is made public, it could prove Gerard and his brothers illegitimate, and strip them of their inheritance. And just in case, Gerard intends to find himself a wealthy bride. One way or another, he’s not going to be left destitute. But he’s not expecting a rich widow to find him and ask him to marry her. Katherine Howe’s first marriage was one of dreary duty, arranged by her wealthy father to a penniless lord. Now that she’s being pressured to marry her late husband’s heir, she’s desperately in search of a better option. Gerard de Lacey, with his sinful good looks, charming manner, and looming scandal fits her needs perfectly. The fact that she’s nursed a secret affection for him for years only makes it better—and worse. Because Gerard will marry her, for her fortune—but will he love her for herself, as she loves him?
This is my first novel by Caroline Linden, and although it’s the second book in The Truth About the Duke series, it serves well as a stand-alone book.
Blame It on Bath features Katherine as a quiet, plain heroine and Gerard as her handsome, outgoing hero. When rumors of Gerard’s possible illegitimacy begin to surface, Katherine sees her opportunity to marry the man she’s had a crush on for years (he gave her a ride on his horse when it was pouring rain and was nice to her; Gerard does not remember her from the past). Gerard knows that if the evidence the blackmailer is threatening is found to be true, his chances of finding a bride of good ton will dwindle drastically. When Katherine approaches him to offer him marriage and her inheritance from her last husband in exchange for his protection so she won’t have to marry her husband’s heir, he is tempted. What makes him agree, however, is the hint at beauty and passion he glimpses beneath her reserved exterior. They soon marry and leave London for Bath, where Gerard hopes to find more information about the person blackmailing his family.
I really wanted to like this book. I’ve heard so many great things about Caroline Linden’s writing in the past, and even this book is receiving good reviews from other readers. I liked the setup and the contrasts between the hero and heroine–who doesn’t like seeing the handsome hero fall for a plain Jane?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find enough things to like about Blame It on Bath in order to be able to recommend it. First, this book was a slow read. A very slow read. The story never managed to engage me–I never really cared about the blackmail plot–and the characters failed in this aspect, too. As for the characters themselves.. despite how much I usually enjoy reading about plain heroines, and while I thought Ms. Linden portrayed Katherine’s character well, I never really got to the point where I liked her. I didn’t find her too self-effacing or negative or whiny…I just never found her interesting. And to hold my interest, a character doesn’t have to be sympathetic, but she certainly has to be interesting. I also felt that Gerard, the hero, didn’t find her very interesting, either. Of course, readers would expect this at the beginning of the book, but it was only toward the last third of the book where he starts to feel guilty about the way he’s treated Katherine that he seems to really care about her one way or another. (I’m not talking about sex here. They have sex early on, and it’s portrayed as something that’s supposed to be wonderful, although I never really felt enough chemistry between them to believe this).
Overall, I just couldn’t believe in the romance between Gerard and Katherine. The only two times I was drawn into their “love story” was when 1) Gerard insisted on calling her Kate instead of Katherine, and then in her head she called herself the same because he was helping her to see herself as someone “more” than plain, quite Katherine and 2) at the climax of the book when Gerard finally explains why he loves her. Beyond these two instances, the book to me was more the story of Gerard searching for information about the blackmailer and Katherine/Kate “discovering” herself.
Despite all this, I will probably try another Caroline Linden book in the future. I enjoyed her writing style; it was just the characters and the fact I couldn’t bring myself to believe in their love story that made Blame It on Bath a “meh” book for me.