She'll be his perfect wife . . .
Preoccupied with fighting Napoleon and making love to his mistress, Brian Ranson has ignored his wife since their wedding. But now that he's become the Earl of Wright, he's ready to fetch his bride back to London. He's shocked to find she's become a bold, beautiful woman, exactly the kind he lusts after . . . and she wants nothing to do with him.
Gillian, Lady Wright, is desperate to seize the love she's been denied . . . but not with her rakish husband! So she makes a bargain—for thirty days she'll be the perfect wife, then he'll set her free. But no matter how she hardens her heart against her damnable earl, her body begs her to surrender . . .
I was just mentioning to the luscious Wendy that I was not really feeling historical romances lately. You know how it is. You go through a period where you glut yourself on one thing and then one day it just doesn't do it for you anymore and you're on to a new thing. So, I wasn't really looking for a new historical to try when I stumbled across this one. Yes, I'd seen it in the bookstore and online and it just didn't interest me. The same old story, chit is forced to marry some lord who has the obligatory catty mistress and the marriage is a sham. The lord is probably a manwhore, blah, blah, blah. Been there, read that, didn't really wanna go back for seconds at the moment. Fortunately for me and this book, Barnes and Noble has the lovely feature of letting me read the first couple chapters on their website before I decide if I want to buy. Well, by the time those pages were done, I was hooked. I just had to see what was going to happen and how these people were going to find love and trust in each other. I've read Ms. Maxwell in the past and I usually like her writing and this was no exception.
The heroine: Gillian was a great heroine. She was forced to marry someone she cared for but didn't love her. She lived with her amoral and sometimes cruel in-laws and had been pretty much neglected by her own father and stepmother before that. When we meet her in this book, she's had enough. She's played the good girl and it got her nothing but heartache and pain. She has moved to her cousin's estate in the country and is ready to embark on a grand love affair with a handsome man from Spain who truly adores her. She throws house parties and runs the estate efficiently and is happy for the first time in a long time. She's accepted her husband loves his mistress and she refuses to pine for him. I loved her. When her recalcitrant hubby finally does show and demands her compliance she gives him a piece of her mind and stands up to him every step of the way. When he surprises her with something he needs her help with she rises to the occasion though lesser women would have bolted out the door and never come back. My one beef is that she forgave a bit too easily in my mind.
The hero: Brian, or Wright, is a complex fellow. He's a man of honor. He loved the wrong woman once and he was faithful to her which was refreshing from the usual lordly type that taps anything in a skirt. He is a man who knows he did wrong by his wife and he wants to make it up to her. He needs her help. She's all he's got left in the world and he wants so bad for them to start over. He comes up against his father and his expectations at every turn. He knows his wife cares for another and has no clue how to make her love him. He was really kind of endearing. You believe that he's learned from his past mistakes and you can't help but cheer for a man that would defy his father and former mistress to do what he feels is right. I did wish at times he would fight for Gillian by talking to her more and telling her how he feels, but he's just so tormented and alone that you just want to hold him and make it better. It also helped that he was a master swordsman. I always find that hot in a hero ;)
Overall plot: The plot was good. The emotions felt real. I did feel bad for Andres, Gillian's love interest. He wasn't the normal love interest for the heroine in these things. You know, where you find out later he never really cared about her and just wanted her money or revenge on the hero or something like that. He actually cares about Gillian, is willing to run away with her and I felt really bad that he got hurt in all this, but I liked that Ms. Maxwell didn't resort to cliches to vilify him and get rid of him. These felt like real people working out real problems in an imperfect world and you wanted to cheer them on and watch them beat the odds. I also have always enjoyed Ms. Maxwell's portrayal of families as more than blood and biology. She's done this in a couple of her books and I applaud her for it. Families can be made by choice and be stronger for it.
In the end, I give The Earl Claims His Wife an A-. It was well written, witty and emotional. I very much recommend it to all my historical romance fans out there.