Release: October 10, 2010
More info: goodreads
Book Blurb: A Dead Man's Debt - a story of blackmail, duty and an unexpected love.
After publically humiliating a suitor, Miss Celeste Armitage is sent from the Ton in disgrace and resolves never to marry. But when she finds a sketch book of nude studies and discovers the artist is her hostess's eldest son, Lord Ranulf Charing, she finds herself dangerously attracted to exactly the sort of rogue she is sworn to avoid.
Nothing is as it seems. Lord Ranulf's life is a facade and he is being blackmailed over his late brother's debts. But just as the darkly restless Ranulf unexpectedly learns to love, the vengeful fury of his nemesis unleashed. In order to protect Celeste, Lord Ranulf faces a stark choice between duty and true love...
However Ranulf has underestimated Miss Armitage's stubborn resolve to clear his name, and in so doing places the woman he loves in mortal danger.
My Thoughts: Grace Elliot has a gift for telling a story though she sometimes has trouble with language. Her descriptions and her story progression are not cliched or expected. The love story itself is sweet, and both Ranulf and Celeste are intriguing characters. Celeste sees herself as a fiercely independent woman. She prefers being a governess to being married, and beingcontrolled by a man she doesn’t love. That is until she meets Lord Ranulf Charing, seemingly a rogue, with the worst of reputations. Ranulf is handsome, sexy, a rake, in some ways a cold man. Yet, he believes in familial duty,even though he also believes his mother does not love him, and that his recently deceased older brother was his mother's favorite. He has no interest in marriage either and is content to let the title pass to another relative.
What follows is full of twists and turns as Celeste and Ranulf grow closer while Ranulf deals with being blackmailed over his late brother's debts. Elliot shows us Celeste's and Ranulf's growing feelings for each other and their internal struggles to reconcile that with their respective desires to stay single and their individual dreams. We see Celeste and Ranulf, but especially Ranulf, change and grow. Elliot takes her time, building events carefully.
However,other characters don't stay true to themselves: Ranulf's mother, Lady Cadnum, and a soldier, Captain Harry Engerfield, who's part of the blackmail scheme. They are portrayed as one way, then abruptly change midway through the story. Engerfield's was particularly frustrating as his personality change plays a major role in the latter part of the story, and the ending. After so carefully showing us Ranulf and Celeste's emotional changes, it was so disappointing that she failed to do so with Engerfield and Lady Cadnum.
What really killed the story for me was the actual writing. I seriously questioned, at one point, if English was her native language (according to her website she was born and raised in the UK so presumably it is). I could have forgiven a lot if that were the case. The writing quality veers wildly from descriptive and emotive to WTF? There are numerous wrong word choices, including this one: "With a horrible sinking sensation, she caste around the room." Or "He caste a disapproving glance at dishevelled Ranulf." Yet, there are times when she uses the correct word, cast, appropriately. (and yes, that is the spelling she used for disheveled, not a typo on my part.) That is not the only wrong word choice, there are others. There are also numerous run on sentences and sentence fragments. My favorite sentence fragment would have to be this one: "Indeed, there were sparse bookshelves, furnished mainly with arm chairs, sofas and card tables." Now that's quite an image. Are we talking about dollhouse furniture? Or did she forget (I'm assuming "yes") the correct antecedent and she really meant that the library mentioned in the preceding (correctly formed) sentence was sparsely furnished?
There are too many examples, I could give many more. There were so many in fact, that I found myself proofreading and copy-editing as I read, instead of reading the story. I was tempted to email her and offer my services as copy-editor and proofreader for her next book. I did actually email her and ask if perhaps she had sent me the wrong PDF, a draft instead of the final product. She responded that it was possible but didn't offer to send me the correct PDF. Therefore, based on what I received and read, I give the actual love story 3.5 stars but the writing only 1 star. BTW, I looked on Amazon and goodreads, and none of the reviews I skimmed mentioned the typos, misspellings, etc so perhaps it was the copy that I received.
Overall, the story itself is good but the writing has tremendous room for improvement.