Desperate times call for daring measures as Honor Cabot, the eldest stepdaughter of the wealthy Earl of Beckington, awaits her family’s ruin. Upon the earl’s death she and her sisters stand to lose the luxury of their grand home – and their place on the pedestal of society – to their stepbrother and his social-climbing fiancée. Forced to act quickly, Honor makes a devil’s bargain with the only rogue in London who can seduce her stepbrother’s fiancée out of the Cabots’ lives for good.
An illegitimate son of a duke, George Easton was born of scandal and grows his fortune through dangerous risks. But now he and Honor are dabbling in a perilous dance of seduction that puts her reputation and his jaded heart on the line. And as unexpected desire threatens to change the rules of their secret game, the stakes may become too high even for a notorious gambler and a determined, free-spirited debutante to handle.
Rating: A for narration; B for content
The Trouble with Honor, the first book in a new series from Ms London, tells the story of the eldest of the four Cabot sisters. With their sick father not expected to live much longer and their mother gradually succumbing to what we would today recognise as dementia, Miss Honor Cabot has little alternative but to assume parental responsibility for her younger sisters.
She’s vivacious and beautiful, and has not been without male admirers. Having had her heart broken a couple of years previously by a young man who showed every sign of being equally smitten until he offered for another woman, Honor has been reluctant to look for a suitable husband. But now, with her family situation as it is, she is starting to think she has left it too late to make any match, for what man will want – or be able to afford – the burden of three sisters and a sick mother?
The difficulty of the sisters’ situation is exacerbated by the fact that their stepbrother is engaged to be married to Miss Monica Hargrove, whom Honor has convinced herself will use her influence over him to see them all turned out of the house before the ink is dry on the marriage license.
Honor needs to buy them all some time while she finds herself a suitably rich and biddable husband. The plan she comes up with is, to be honest, pretty daft; she thinks that if she can separate her brother and his fiancée, he will have nobody urging him to turn them out and shut their mother away in a home in the far wilds of Wales and they’ll be safe for a little longer. With that plan in mind, she approaches Mr George Easton, illegitimate – and unacknowledged – son of a royal duke; a man with a reputation as a gambler and risk-taker – and asks for his help. She wants him to “turn Monica’s head” – he’s handsome, charming and an expert in the art of seduction, and Monica is an attractive young woman, so it shouldn’t prove too onerous or difficult a task.
Honor has, however, reckoned without George’s perceptiveness. He may have a reputation for recklessness, but he’s no fool and immediately discerns the reasons behind Honor’s request:
“With [your father] on his deathbed, you fear that a new countess will not look kindly to keeping four stepsisters as they should like to be kept.”
She finds his insight more than a little disturbing – and for his part, even though he’s stunned by her audacity, George can’t help but be intrigued and admire Honor’s cheek… as well as other parts of her anatomy 😛
But admiration wins out, and against his better judgement the deal is struck, with George agreeing to draw Monica into a flirtation at the next available opportunity.
Given the improbable premise and a heroine whose determination to destroy her stepbrother’s happiness seemed certain to make her unlikeable, I had a few misgivings about the story, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d listen to Rosalyn Landor read the phone book, I might have set it aside and moved on to something else. But her performance drew me in and kept me listening; and I ended up enjoying the audiobook more than I thought I would. The story has a few flaws, but none of them were so huge as to pull me out of it and fortunately, Honor does grow up during the course of the book and come to admit her plan was unkind and ridiculous. In fact, as her character is gradually revealed to be rather more than the spoiled, selfish young woman she at first seems, I found myself warming to her. She really doesn’t care about being able to afford fashionable clothes or hats – all she wants is to be able to look after her sisters and make sure their mother is cared for. Her options are limited – sadly typical for a young woman of the time – but she’s not one to sit back and take whatever hand fate deals her, and she goes for what she wants – even if her methods might be somewhat questionable. In that, she’s similar to George, who is also someone who is willing to go out on a limb for what he wants.