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Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Proof by Seduction
Carhart #1

Courtney Milan
Historical Romance
Published in 2010

H/h - Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely/Jennifer Keeble
Setting: London, 1838.

Read in Sept, 2011.
My rating:
                                                         
                                                                        [spoiler alert]

Proof by Seduction was my first Courtney Milan book. I’ve heard good things about her books, yet honestly I didn’t know what to expect. I really liked this book, yet there were times I was frustrated more than once, wasn’t sure where the H/h are going and how their ‘situation’ would be ultimately solved. But in the end, I know Gareth won me over though I wish it didn’t take these two for such a long time to see reason.

Gareth is a scientist, despite his title and all the responsibilities that burden his shoulders. His takes refuge in his scientific researches and studies. He hates his title and everything that comes with it. At first, I didn’t understand the reason behind it. But as I gradually learned things about him and his childhood, I did. His grandfather, like so many others before him, was as emotionally stunted as he trained Gareth to be. Cold, calculating and distant is all Gareth has ever learned to be. He wasn’t always like this though. But after his own father died and mother remarried, life for a young Gareth wasn’t easy with such a grandfather. He was taught that a Marquess is better than anyone else in the world and his responsibilities for his title is what makes ‘him’, the person, nothing more nothing less. Gareth had no other option but to seek refuge in science because of this sad, lonely childhood. No one really knows what’s there behind the Marquess of Blakely’s cold demeanor. But, Gareth is brilliant, no doubt about that. Throughout the book, it was proven more than once- but when it comes to the matter of heart, oh what is the matter of heart? Gareth doesn’t think there is anything called ‘love’ in this world. There is a reason behind that too, at least a part of an entangled masses of reasons, which has nothing and everything to do with his being a Marquess. Anyway, in the beginning, Gareth had just accompanied his young and awkward cousin Ned to a fortune-teller’s home. He wants to prove Ned that the woman, whom he so religiously listens to and follow, is a fraud. Gareth sees that the woman is filching Ned of money with her hocus-pocus, and Ned, like the green boy he is, falling for it. I absolutely adored the 1st few scenes of the book, started with the one in Jenny’s home. It was hilarious, the whole drama of it, Jenny and Gareth’s reaction to each-other (Jenny thought of Gareth as someone having a very intense, feral eyes, eyes she’d come to love later on while Gareth, seeing Jenny in her Madame Esmerelda costume, you can guess, not very impressed). Oh, all the talks of oranges and elephants. I loved the way Jenny was thinking of outmaneuvering Gareth, knowing why he’s here, also having an idea of him from Ned’s POV, which isn’t very flattering as well, mind you. Afterwards, there’s war of words as well as wills. Jenny tells Gareth that he’ll meet his future wife soon in a ball (information thanks to Ned). Gareth totally scoffs at this but either way, he won’t admit defeat. A fraud, a charlatan would prove him wrong? NO WAY!

Knowing Jenny’s past helped me respect her more. Yes, what she’s been doing for last 12 years, the business of fortune-telling, was ultimately a fraudulent business altogether. Yes, she lied and deceived people but she always thought it was an honest living in it’s own way. She craved for independence, an independence from men and their lies, maybe from the world in general and the lie that has been her life from the moment she learned to understand things around her. She probably was an illegitimate child, but we never get to know that as it’s never revealed. But it was very apparent the way she was treated in the school she was admitted by some unknown benefactor. No one made friends with her, the teachers were horrible. It comes out later (as Gareth goes to investigate Jenny’s past) that the headmistress disliked Jenny so much that she encouraged other girls to behave badly. But Jenny hung on, for a long time- exactly til her 18th year when she heard that the fund that supported her won’t support her anymore. She wrote letters to people she thought her kin but never once got an answer so she knew she’s alone in this world. The only thing she wanted was a little love from someone, anyone. But what she got in return from the brother of one of the classmates was shame. Knowing what he intended her to become, she consented. But I just couldn’t blame her for this. The whole situation was so sad and heart tugging; a girl without a family, friends, social status yet a lot of spirit and courage- I saw Jenny as someone worthy of my respect. She knew she could’ve been a governess, since her education was excellent but without a reference, there was no hope. So she became the man’s mistress and trusted the man’s empty promises of love. She knew he won’t marry her because of her social status but it didn’t even last more than 2 months. When she was telling all these to Gareth, I felt really truly sad for her. Anyway, so she’d run from that life and became a fortune-teller eventually. Even though this is not a profession one can boast of, she certainly can respect herself for not selling something she’d rather give freely to someone she loves.

The ball, which they were to attend, was another hilarious event. The elephant that Gareth was supposed to carve to present his future wife... My God, you have to read to understand. It was so funny. Gareth could be endearing in an odd sort of way. It also helps that he’s tall and very handsome with sandy brown hair and golden brown eyes and that most of the times, he’s very charmingly disheveled. Gareth is very arrogant, too; something suits him well even though not always very pleasing in a companion. Ned, on the other hand, is quite open and jolly, although awkward at times. Jenny helped Ned for two years now to overcome his bouts of depression. We’re never told why he goes through this ‘blankness’ but he does. Jenny told him things he wanted to hear but she didn’t have any bad motives behind it. Money wasn’t the only thing because Jenny, as I got it, liked Ned a lot. She liked talking to him, to help him out. But, meanwhile what to do about His Lordship? Jenny, against her better judgments, finds herself attracted to Gareth. And, Gareth, well, as far as I learned, wasn’t the rakish kind. Even the encounters he had were mostly with whores and stuffs, very unemotional and for physical release/necessity, as he terms it. But, inwardly, he isn’t happy with this and this lonely, reserved man longs for love just as anyone else.

They take Jenny to a modiste before the ball for a nice gown but Gareth ends up seeing her in her chemise. Boy oh boy, the dark haired Madame Esmerelda is one sexy woman underneath all those mambo-gumbo of clothes! From that moment Gareth decided he’d bed the woman, no matter what the outcome is. Now, I should’ve been pissed at Gareth’s thought but I wasn’t really. I saw he needed the jolting only Jenny could provide him. So after the ball, there are more events, Jenny and Gareth keeps seeing each-other. There are exchanges of kisses and touches. Ned, on the other hand, saw one Lady Kathleen in that ball and Madame said this woman is supposed to be Blakely’s wife. But the damned man doesn’t seem very eager to secure his future wife. Ned is quite smitten with the beautiful Kathleen, no matter what he let’s himself think. He even talks to Kathleen himself in the ‘carved elephant handing over ceremony’, when Gareth was hesitating. Anyway, he takes it all in his hand and inadvertently, makes a bigger mess out of it! They were suppose to attend another ball when Gareth goes to see Jenny and ended up spending more time than he ought to while fondling and kissing her. He was late. In the meantime, Ned had set his plan in motion but as Gareth was late, he goes to talk to Kathleen. I thought the whole plan was incredibly stupid which Ned understands soon enough. I need to speak of Gareth’s half-sister Laura here, who is a lot younger than him. They don’t really share a close sibling bond as their monthly meeting would show you. Laura, quite eagerly, tries to win her older brother, the one she loves, adores and respects. But Gareth just doesn’t know how to react. Laura is kinda scared of Gareth so she also doesn’t know how to express herself. The result? A very stiff and mechanical tea without any real conversation between the siblings, every freakin month! Because of Gareth’s trouble of expressing himself articulately, he ended up having trouble with Jenny too.

Anyway, so right now, Gareth and Jenny almost ended up making love when Jenny reminds him of Ned and the ball. When he gets there, it a mess of the worst order! It seems like Ned planned to get Kathleen with Gareth alone, while Laura and some vicious gossipy women would catch them together. You know what would’ve been the result of that, only it all went wrong and now Kathleen’s father, the Duke of Ware is mad angry at Ned because Ned’s not at all the type of husband he ever wanted for his daughter. I’m not sure why Kathleen was taken with Ned and answered the fake note to meet him alone. Anyway, what follows next is more mess. Gareth takes Ned to Jenny. Jenny knowing the whole trouble that involuntarily involves herself, comes out with the truth, something she denied to tell Gareth for these weeks. It was also because she was becoming weak when it comes to Gareth, even though she didn’t know if Gareth felt anything for her except lust. She knew it’s going to be history repeating itself, yet she couldn’t help but falling. Jenny also tells them her real name, something no one knew for the last 12 yrs. Ned falls into the pit of depression once more, ignoring the mess he’d created and Ware’s summons to solve the problem. Gareth was feeling helpless too, so he turns to Jenny, exactly the same night and they become lovers. Jenny didn’t think after her admission of fraud, Gareth would return but he does, every single day. She didn’t want to continue it but Gareth was adamant that he’d see her and soon. Jenny can’t say ‘no’ to him. I was not happy about it entirely and then soon Jenny realizes she can never stay as Gareth’s lover without becoming his mistress. Oh but this whole double edged situation was very heart wrenching. And in her mind, in some corner, Jenny wanted a home and she wanted it with Gareth. But of course, a Marquess doesn’t marry a total nobody! Gareth never said anything about marriage either.

Their lovemaking was needy without a doubt, I liked them. I knew Gareth wanted Jenny and it wasn’t just sex. Poor guy tries giving her a bed (don’t laugh, he was thinking with his scientific, logical mind) but it was a disaster. Jenny understood yet felt embarrassed when the mare carpenter looked at her with contempt. It obviously showed what her relationship was with Gareth. Also sometimes later, Gareth tries giving her a piece of jewelry, I mean isn’t it the way things are done? Yet Jenny was hurt. It was irrational yet not irrational at the same time. Jenny knew this can’t go on. She would never be able to respect herself if this beautiful thing becomes something that can be bought in exchange for money. She never wanted this and certainly not with Gareth. Gareth knew he’d made a mistake again but the poor guy was always out of his league with situations like these. He wanted to make Jenny happy, help her financially knowing her plight. He didn’t mean anything bad or calculating. He even made friends with his man of affair, White, with whom like so many others ‘beneath’ him, Gareth never thought he’d have any companionship other than the most polite and distant cordiality- just because Jenny, when they were baiting each-other with obnoxious games, asked for it. He knows Jenny understands him, sees through him like no other (and Jenny did)... Yet it was the most frustrating thing for me see how very confused and hesitant they were when it came to the matter of heart. I already talked about Jenny. Gareth’s was equally sad and devastating, when his grandfather screwed the woman he thought he loved. Gareth heard it all, knew the woman went to the old man willingly since, of course, he was the then Lord Blakely. It was pretty disgusting. I don’t know how Gareth could tolerate the old man after that!

Anyway, these two keep on making mistakes and more misunderstanding followed. Their relationship was rocky at best. Jenny was insecure, so was Gareth. How I wish they talked to each-other openly! Jenny kept thinking Gareth would leave her someday. And Gareth kept thinking he can’t give anyone more than this because of his responsibilities! God, I felt like shaking these two and make them see reasons! In the meantime, Laura comes to see Jenny and talk to her about the marital relationship since the poor girl had no one to talk to. Jenny talks to her but Gareth interrupts. Even then Jenny tells Laura that she needs to be strong if ever her husband does anything to harm her, lest he decides to ‘leave’. Gareth understands the implication and is angry at her. He accompanies Laura home. Jenny goes to see him in his house (not the first time) because she couldn’t wait up for him. Jenny thought Gareth might be angry because of her involvement with his sister, instead finds him very happy to see her. Her thoughts were reasonable as once Gareth actually threatened her with ruination if she ever tried to convince Laura with her claptrap. But after everything that passed between them, it was sad to see Jenny still didn’t feel secure enough. Anyway, Ned goes on making more mess with his life, returning to his old habit of gambling and drinking throughout the night. Gareth tries to talk to him but fails miserably. So he sought for Jenny’s help. How she helped Ned was a bit far fetched but it was meaningful nonetheless. Jenny loses her entire fortune of some pounds (how she came by it explains in the next paragraph) to Ned while teaching him a lesson.

Now, Jenny didn’t have any funds even though she planned to leave soon. One of her customer’s husbands had real dislike for her. That man worked in the bank Jenny had her account in. He very deliberately snatched away her passbook. Later on she found out the man cashed out her entire life’s income, just to punish her. Jenny said nothing to Gareth, she has more pride than that and she always solves her own problems. She tried to look for jobs but knew she won’t have anything respectable. She was just hoping to go on for one more day, have Gareth for one more day before she leaves for some countryside. She sold a dress Gareth gave her when they’re still fighting over Jenny’s profession. She somehow managed to keep her landlord calm with a few shillings. But she doesn’t know what she’ll do once she leaves this place for good and Gareth with it. Then she loses the whole amount in the gaming too. What now?

So, Jenny tells Gareth she’s going to leave soon as she can’t go on like this. Gareth panics, makes crazy love to her and then asks her to give him a day and go for a ride. The next day, Gareth comes as promised and takes Jenny to a beautiful home. Jenny immediately understood the implication as Gareth kept saying he won’t let her go. But he says something to hurt her and Jenny finally decides to leave him. Meanwhile, it seems like Ned has learned his lesson (though I wasn’t really convinced). He visits Ware’s house. Lord, that scene with all the name callings between him and Ware was HILARIOUS! Then he talks to Kathleen, who says ‘yes’ to him (even after knowing what he planned when this mess happened and how he ignored her all these time) just because he makes her laugh! Huh? I don’t know what to think! Then he visits Jenny, only to find she’s leaving for America, selling almost everything she called hers to pay for her passage.

I absolutely adored the ending though. Do you remember that ‘elephant’ thing I mentioned in the beginning? There was another ‘elephant handing over ceremony’. Oh but it was so so sweet what Gareth did and said to win Jenny over. But before, I wasn’t happy about his thoughts on Jenny and their relationship though. I thought he wasn’t totally reciprocating Jenny’s feelings because of his stature as well as his own emotional reservations. But it seems like he’s taken his duty (I shouldn’t have been surprised knowing his past) to such a level that his reasoning to why he can’t marry Jenny sounded entirely stupid to me. Then, how Ned came to play a part in the whole thing, was another surprise for me since I didn’t believe he was capable of being so passionate about anything in his life. I really liked this book even though I’m not sure what I’ll find in Ned’s book, I’ll give that a try.

3.75 stars.

PS: Have I mentioned how cute I found it that Jenny planned to make Gareth laugh/grin and decided to give herself points for it and how these two would biker about it? :p


Favorite Quote:
“What are you planning to do with all my points?”
Points? It took Jenny a moment to remember what he was talking about. Points, when he smiled. She turned around slowly and put her hands on her hips.
“Your points? Those are my points. I earned them. You can’t have them.”
Gareth scowled and shoved his hands into his pockets.
“Bollocks. I had to smile very hard for every single one of them. And if you don’t take this elephant and marry me, I swear to God you’ll never get another point again.”
Jenny’s world froze. Outside, she could hear the clear voice of a blackbird singing. It was overwhelmed by the
ringing in her ears. She turned to Gareth slowly.
“What did you say?”
“I said, you’ll never earn another point again. I haven’t smiled since you left me, and I miss it.” He kicked at the ground, his eyes tracing the dust. “I miss you.”
“No, before that.”
“Take this elephant—”
“After.”
He looked up. That feral light shone in his eyes again, but this time the wild look was a plea. A lion yearning to be
freed from its cage. “Take me.” His voice was thick and husky. “Please. Jenny. I’m begging you.”
She didn’t know what to say in answer. He’d shocked the words right out of her skin. She could only stare, as some frozen expanse inside her tingled to life. It hurt to want.


*Update*

Want to have a good laugh? Read Mr. Milan’s review of Proof by Seduction here! Had to share. :p

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I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. My blog Punya Reviews just turned 6 in 2017 and still going strong. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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