Once a Gentleman

Once a Gentleman - Candice Hern 2.5 stars - almost, but not quite 3 starsInteresting concept - a slight spin on the "man trap"... This is not the first book in a series about a periodical called "The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet". The magazine's offices are out of the home of Nicholas Parrish and his sister Edwina. But Edwina has recently married and is away on her wedding trip. In her place, a loyal employee Prudence is managing editor. Except that diligent Prudence stays late one evening, working on the magazine, and falls asleep. Nicholas, unaware that Prudence accidentally spent the night sleeping on her desk in the drawing room downstairs, is rudely awakened by Prudence's Viking hordes -- 5 brothers and her titled father, who demand that Nicholas immediately marry Prudence.Nicholas and Prudence have been friends for the past few years -- mainly because Prudence works on the magazine. But Prudence is shy (a bit mousy, even) and not the usual dark beauty that Nicholas goes for. So until Nicholas realizes that Prudence's family is titled, influential, and large (Prudence is part of the ton? Nicholas had no idea!), he realizes that for Prudence's honor's sake, they must marry.Nicholas' own father is merely a baronet, the lowest title of the gentry, and usually bestowed in more "recent" years for some honor done to the Crown. Nicholas' own views are quite republican; he's against most of what the ton stand for and seeks a more egalitarian society -- especially where industry is concerned. Nicholas' big dream is to open his own factories that don't employ under age children, but provide a healthy, peaceful environment where families are welcomed and the children are educated. Except that he needs money to realize his dream, and as hard as he tried, Nicholas' investments just don't seem to succeed.As Nicholas is rushed from his hurried marriage with Prudence to one of her family's events, he discovers that she's quite unlike her family: tall, loud, opinionated, and arrogant. Nicholas feels as if Prudence were his own sister, and he hates to see her treated so poorly by her own family, that he pretends theirs is a love match to thwart the gossip. But little does he realize that Pru has been secretly in love with him for a long time... Nor does he realize that Pru might just be exactly what he needs in his life -- that she could be his true love.--------------------OK, now for my review: I liked the premise -- that both Nicholas and Prudence were forced into marriage to honor the ideals of propriety in their time. As much as Pru secretly loves Nicholas, she'd only dreamed of him loving her; she doesn't want to force herself on him, afraid he'll resent her. And Nicholas, who has resigned himself fully to the marriage, has decided that while he wants to consummate the marriage and have children, he doesn't want to force his affections on her in any way.And that's one of the sticking points for me -- the thing that makes me want to tear my hair out. For all that Nicholas tries to know more about who Prudence is and for all he learns, he simply can't see past her shyness to read her moods. He forces HER to tell him when he can and can't be intimate with her. That's so... unlikely, especially for a well-bred spinster lady and for someone as shy as Pru is. So when he starts to become fascinated by her and wants to become physically intimate, he practically forces himself upon her with kisses and gropes... and then all he can do is apologize to her later. Yes, I'm frustrated with Prudence for not being able to say YES, I like this... I want more. But I'm more frustrated with Nicholas' overbearing sense of "honor" and for still not truly seeing HER and knowing HER.The other sticking point is the money thing. Prudence does have some money of her own. Nicholas won't hear of her using it for anything to do with him or their life. It's only to be hers. That's because he's already been taunted by some (mostly her large family that includes 52 first cousins) that he's a fortune hunter and only married the spinster Pru for her money. But still... the man obviously can't invest to save his life. So, of course, the other Big Misunderstanding between them is that Pru tries to help Nicholas and does so in secret to save his pride.I was disappointed that what could have been sparkling and enchanting (especially with the Crimson Ladies and the Fashion Plate Advisor - forgot her name just now) turned out to be only just OK. It didn't tempt me enough yet to read any of the other books in the series... but I'll keep Ms. Hearn in mind when I'm on the hunt for books to read... but not just yet.