VEXING THE VISCOUNT by Christie Kelley
As the reluctant new Viscount Middleton, Braden Tavers already has several reputations to save–including his own. So it’s imperative he rescue his estate’s healer Tia Featherstone from her impetuous plan to find his rakehell brother Jonathon. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her determined spirit and unworldly charms at arm’s length. But protecting this stubborn beauty from himself is only stoking an irresistible desire–and an insidious danger threatening them both .
Tia must get Jonathon back under her care before his unforgiving brother discovers how ill he truly is. But searching London’s most scandalous hellholes and staying two steps ahead of Braden is uncovering the viscount’s deepest secrets–and a longing to make his wounded heart her own. To save him, she must risk a deception that could put his past to rest–or separate them forever . . .
This book introduced me to a phrase I’d not yet come across in historical romances: a wise woman. It’s a job title for a midwife/healer, and apparently the skills are passed from mother to daughter. This is the third book in a series about wise women, but I hadn’t read the prior books and had no trouble following the plot.
Tia Featherstone is the wise woman for the Midlands estate of Viscount Middleton. As the story begins, she’s abandoned the estate and run off to London to track down the Viscount’s brother because: 1) he might be sick, and 2) she might love him. Braden Tavers is the Viscount, sent by Tia’s mother to retrieve her. He doesn’t want to go, but he’s intimidated by Mrs. Featherstone and can’t say no to her.
When Braden finds Tia in a boardinghouse, she refuses to return with him. Perhaps fed up with all these Featherstone women ordering him about, Braden drags an uncooperative Tia away from her non-swanky digs and takes her to his home in town, planning to ship her home the next morning. Unfortunately, Braden goes out that night and gets shot. Tia tends to his wound, giving him plenty of laudanum, and then runs away in the morning before he wakes up. Nothing is going right for Braden.
For the first part of the book, I wasn’t a fan of Braden. He saw Tia as only a problem to be dealt with — a piece of his estate — and he treated her poorly. Tia didn’t impress me much, either, since she wouldn’t tell anyone why she was looking for the lost brother, and her actions seemed impulsive and dangerous.
The plot flips a bit once Braden finds Tia again. He purposefully creates a scandal, ruining her reputation, so that she’ll have no choice but to skulk back home and do her job. Tia tries to bargain with him for more time in town, so Braden offers her the chance if she becomes his mistress. Tia is shocked, but she is so determined to stay in town that she accepts. That’s when I hated Braden even more. Luckily, it turns out that he was bluffing.
While Braden and Tia dance around the question of will-they-or-won’t-they, they’re also trying to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill Braden. Because someone is definitely trying to kill him. I liked that they put their heads together to try to find the answer, rather than keeping secrets from each other. Braden began to see Tia as a person, not an employee. He respected her ideas and then he began to care for her (surprise!). And Tia realized that Braden wasn’t a bossy blowhard — that he might be a decent guy after all.
The characters seemed to get smarter throughout the book, and they grew to respect and love each other. Plus Tia got to save Braden’s life a few times, which is always a great start to a relationship! I found myself enjoying the tension and plot twists, and I was quite happy with the resolution.
Janell lives north of Seattle with her husband, two smallish sons, and an aging cat. She works very hard at not having a real job by reading romance novels, reviewing them, and occasionally writing snippets of one. You can find her reviews at Red Hot Books (redhotbooks.com), follow her on Twitter (Janell_Suth), and follow her writing progress on her poorly updated blog (janellsutherland.com).
VEXING THE VISCOUNT by Christie Kelley/Kensington/August 21