Saturday, February 28, 2009

Private Arrangements, by Sherry Thomas


Donna told me that if I read this book, I would not be disappointed. She was correct. Sherry Thomas is a new author to me, and I'm glad I picked up Donna's tip from the Quickie she posted.

Private Arrangements is the story of Gigi Rowland, a wealthy industrialist's daughter,  and Camden Saybrook, destitute heir to a dukedom and the cousin of Gigi's recently dead husband to be. When they meet, it is love at first sight for Gigi, but Camden is in love with someone else. Gigi decides that what Camden wants doesn't matter and she does something to clear the way for him to marry her.  When Camden finds out the truth, hours before his wedding to Gigi, he decides to go forward with it anyway.  He then wreaks revenge on her so completely that they spend the next decade on different continents with totally separate lives, despite Gigi's desperate attempts to make things right between them.

The story, on the surface, is about two people who are so selfish and immature, that they sabotage what could be a happy marriage for the sake of pride and revenge. However, it's really about two people who are so in love, yet so hurt by the other's actions, that they can't find their way past the now (and then as well) insignificant thing that drove them apart in the first place.

When Gigi demands a divorce after 10 years of this non-marriage, Camden returns to England with one final request that sets in motion the path their futures will take, and Sherry Thomas does not make this path easy nor quick, to our delight.

We also meet Gigi's mother, Victoria Rowland and the Duke of Perrin, a neighbor and acquaintance she's known for 30 years. This secondary story line is a good counterpoint to the main one. It explains the complex relationship between Gigi and her mother, and Camden and his mother-in-law. And it's nice to see some older protagonists have their own romance in a romance novel.

Interestingly enough, I started out not particularly liking any of the characters, but the book is so well-written that I had no compunction about finishing it.  By the middle of the story, I was firmly in Gigi's corner, hoping that Camden had grown up enough to see that what he thought was the basis of his original argument was not important after all, and too much time had been wasted already.

Sherry Thomas set this book in the late 1800's over a period of 11 years, and uses flashbacks to tell the story. I like this period of time in a novel. There are enough modern conveniences, like reliable trans-Atlantic crossings, convenient train transportation and big cities across the pond (New York City in this case), to make the story move quickly, and make it infintely more interesting. I'm looking forward to reading Ms. Thomas' next novel, Delicious, which I'm told by a reliable source, is also very, very good.

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