Beguiling the Barrister (The Forsters, #2) by Wendy Soliman
Series: The Forsters #2
Also in this series: Romancing the Runaway
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: June 24th 2013
Genres: Historical Romance
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Flick—more properly known as Lady Felicity Forster—was twelve when she decided she was going to marry her handsome neighbor Darius Grantley. Now, embarking on her second season, she's no nearer to that lofty ambition. She commits to making Darius fall in love with her, if only he'd take a break from pleading the case of the common criminal as a barrister at the Old Bailey.
Darius adores the lovely, high-spirited younger sister of the Marquess of Denby, but he's all too aware that Flick is far above him in social status, not to mention fortune. Winning the high-profile Cuthbert case will earn him a promised appointment to King's Counsel and just enough income to provide a home for his well-born lady.
But the cards are stacked against him. Not only do the newspapers trumpet his clients' guilt, but a powerful peer bribes the witnesses and threatens Flick unless Darius sabotages his own case…
While it has been known to happen, it is not often that decisions made in childhood persist and significantly impact a person into adulthood. But that is exactly what happened to Lady Felicity . . . she made up her mind that she was going to marry her neighbor and childhood friend, Darius Grantley, and that was all there was to it!! Flick, as Lady Felicity was called by her near and dear, was a woman of strong heart and stubborn will but never more so than in this issue of not only liking and being childishly crushed on Darius, but now as an adult woman knowing that there was no other man who could ever hold her heart as he does. Only one problem: Darius was a Barrister, and in American parliance, he was an attorney who was pretty much at the bottom of the heap in importance as well as income. He had been loaded down with his father’s debts, had used skill and limited resources to bring his inherited estates, small as they may have been, back into financial balance, but he lived simply and sparsely, and he was a proud man. Loving Flick was one thing; providing for a woman of an aristocratic family as his wife was quite another.
So we have a story of two very stubborn individuals, both of whom have “right” on their side and both of whom are determined that their point of view will prevail. Yet within this romance tale is a mystery of major proportion. Darius is torn between two very wealthy and powerful men who each want an opposite result from an upcoming trial. Each wants two young men to be found guilty and executed, but for very different reasons. None of that helps Darius and Flick, however, as their future is null and void unless Darius can pull off the impossible, move up in the legal world of 19th century Britain, gain an income that will make it possible for him to be able to support a young woman of Flick’s background and upbringing, and still feel that he was saving his pride and proving his own worth as a provider.
Ms Soliman writes wonderful stories and that is the long and short of it. Whether it is a contemporary tale or a historical one, she puts together gritty and edgy tales that involve people who don’t usually inhabit romantic fiction, people who bite into life with enthusiasm or are bitten by it. She has a way of constructing a story so that the reader is hooked on the mystery and is teased along with a clue here or there, a moment of sizzling romance, or a glimpse of the inner workings of a character’s mind–all in a balanced and well-thought-out fashion. Her work is such that I only have to see her name on a book and I have confidence that it will be something that will educate and entertain all at the same time.
I found this story to be pleasantly frustrating. By that I mean that I know Darius is one of those guys that has not had it easy–no ample allowance, no cushy exxpectations of a heavy-duty title that will ensure his future. He has had to struggle for nearly everything he has accomplished, and he is never, and I mean NEVER going to live off a woman, no matter how much he loves her. He is the kind of guy who will never compromise and would rather walk away from a relationship before he would sacrifice his sense of who he is. Likewise, Flick is a woman who stubbornly hopes that Darius will look past her upbringing, will accept that her love will be enough to sustain them no matter how limited Darius’ resources. On the one hand I think she is a very plucky woman who will do anything to get and keep her man. On the other, I really do think that she is somewhat naive in believing that she can go from her well-appointed, well-cared-for life to that of being the wife of a barrister whose income barely sustains him. So my frustration is that, as the author has set up the story, the reader comes to the conclusion early on that these two are going to have a very rocky road to tread if they are ever to make it to the HEA. So the crisis in this tale is a multiple layered one as I see it. First you have the impasse between these two would-be lovers. Then you have the tension created by these two wealthy and powerful government and society figures who are putting Darius in an impossible position both legally as well as personally. He stands to lose everything that is important and precious to him. And lastly, you have the obvious mystery wherein two young men are accused of a crime they strongly declare they didn’t commit but cannot prove otherwise.
Again, I think this book is a winner. Like many Soliman tales it starts off rather slowly and builds to the point where all the tensions seem to explode in one great cacophony of noise and action. It’s a truly great book and one that will please historical romance fiction fans with its wit and clever repartee, its balance as a well-written novel, and its enormous entertainment component. I think it’s one that shouldn’t be missed.
I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.