My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I’ve heard of Lucy Monroe and Annabelle’s Courtship seemed to be the perfect kind of book to start off her work. Though I wasn’t fond of the writing style all that much, it still managed to keep me going, mainly because I did love the characters. Most especially, Annabelle and Ian.
Annabelle is an orphan and has been living with her widowed aunt ever since her parents passed away. Her elder brother, the current Earl, Robert has married her best friend, Diana a while ago. They have a happy marriage based on love. Annabelle, a spinster with no intentions of getting married, is not only a spirited young woman but also, a budding suffragette. She loves what she does, and marriage, after an early disappointment, seems to have no place in her life. Being the loving brother, Robert does despair about her. He wants her to have the kind of life he now has with Diana but fate seemed to have other plans for Annabelle. She’s known to be a plain looking girl, as aside as The Ordinary, one of the major reasons why she never had many beaus to begin with. Though, when her only fiancé left her for an empty-headed, yet pretty young miss, Annabelle wasn’t hurt. Disappointed, yes, she even laughed a little but it didn’t cast any shadows on her life. She has gone on to live as she liked to, and enjoying whatever freedom she can have as an unmarried spinster of her age. But then, one Laird Graenfrae happened to her and everything seemed to turn upside down for her!
Ian has just inherited money and property from his deceased step-father, an English Lord, who has loved him as a son. But, in order to gain access to that inheritance, his shrewd step-father gave some major terms that need to be fulfilled within a year or so. The most important of those would be that Ian must marry. To say that it left Ian unhappy would be an understatement. I never had the impression that he was a womanizer bend on happy-go-lucky. He was more of a growly bear type; possessive and a little alpha, but not enough to make me wanna kick on his balls. But he had an issue with marriage, more specifically, anything to do with ‘love’. He was engaged before, but his fiancée betrayed him with his younger half-brother. Personally, I thought that ‘betrayed’ was a strong word, even though he loved using that word in his mind, as those two were not shagging behind his back or something like that. It wasn’t that Ian actually loved the girl either. He chose her for her looks and that she seemed kind and gently bred to be his wife. But his fiancée and his brother fell in love after the engagement. One day, he just found them kissing in the barn, declaring their love. It disturbed Ian way too much and he immediately called off the engagement, making it look like he has jilted his fiancée. So the blame was on him and the brother ‘stepped in’ to marry her to save her honor. After that, the stubborn oaf completely cut any communication with his family. Oh boy!
Ian needed the money from his step-father to work on his own properties inherited from his own father. Or so I assumed. That one was a run-down, austere type of estate needing a lot of work. If he marries and gains access to that money, all his problems will be solved. Seeing no other option, Ian finally decides that he’d travel to London from Scotland for a season to hunt down a bride for himself. But he had his own terms. He doesn’t want a beautiful young heiress fresh out of schoolroom for this MOC. Ian’s prospective bride must be plain, with medium to minimum dowry and a bit, er, older than any fresh debutante.
I know he sounds like an a$$ but trust me, Ian wasn’t. He just... had his own ideas of duty that he must abide by, alongside being practical. And this list seemed perfectly OK to him. But fate, too, had something planned for him, for the moment he set his eyes on Annabelle, he knew he had found the ‘perfect’ solution for all this problems. Ian thought it’d be easy-peasy to get her acceptance of his proposal since… well, she’s a spinster. He’d soon find out how wrong he was where Annabelle was concerned.
Their introduction was nothing out of the ordinary, thought Ian’s tall, well-built body, handsome face and that Scottish brogue did set Annabelle’s heart aflutter; something that never happened to her ever before. She tries to push it away, but then, it seems, the man is adamant about seeking her out everywhere she goes. She is so flattered by Ian’s attentions that when he finally broach the subject of marriage and that infamous list of his, Annabelle’s illusion that he finds her attractive enough for special attentions, shattered. She’s instantly angry, then morose at the thought. So it’s all because she is ‘plain’, doesn’t have big dowry and a spinster, is why he’s pursuing her?! All because of that freakin’ money? Annabelle is incensed and begins avoiding Ian, who couldn’t understand what exactly he said was wrong. Oh the lout! I was laughing my ass off as to Ian’s genuine confusion at Annabelle’s anger and rejection of his proposal. He even decides that he’d properly court her for the next two months, that should be enough to woo her, right? I was like ‘best of luck with that’. LOL
And thus started the infamous courtship of Annabelle. Ian still very much adamant on marrying Annabelle, who kept avoiding her, though her silly heart would still go in a stupor each time he’d arrive at a ball and simply single her out. Oh he was polite to other people and girls, their mamas even, but he always made it very clear exactly why he’s present. Ian would be the proverbial alpha laird, a bit stubborn, a bit of an oaf but not once annoying in anyway. He was actually adorable even when he was being frustrating. I found their chemistry and their banters very enjoyable. But she was still not giving into Ian no matter how her head would turn into mush. Ian’s single-minded pursuit would be the greatest compliment for her, had it not started on such a… less than stellar proposal. Too bad, Annabelle has no intentions of marrying without love.
Annabelle was a fine heroine IMO. She did her best to show Ian that she didn’t quite appreciate how blunt his proposal was. But Ian’s honest and practical attitude proved to me that when he says something, he means it wholeheartedly. So, when he said he wanted Annabelle, I knew absolutely meant it, if not his possessive natured proved it to me more than once. It was funny and heartwarming to watch them fall for each-other, with Ian starting to call Annabelle only ‘Belle’, and then complimenting her looks. Annabelle didn’t believe a word of it at first, yet gradually she had to, because though the world saw her as a ‘plain spinster’, Ian saw only his Belle. And that’s what, to him, made everything about her beautiful; her looks, grace, wits, even that quick temper when she’d be vexed at Ian for something he’d said or done. He even supported her activities as a suffragette, only raising concern when she was in danger or something. I just loved how after a kiss, or a touch, Annabelle would go limp in Ian’s arms in complete surrender. Because I already knew Ian to be a good man who cared for Annabelle, even if lacking in the ‘tender wooing’ department, I had no complain about it whatsoever.
Loved the scenes between Annabelle’s elder brother Robert and SIL Diana was also very good. They were the secondary couple and had a good presence throughout the story. I loved their interactions (Robert, Diana, Annabelle and Ian) together.
Of course, a villain came into the light who wasn’t much of a scary villain IMO. It was all about Annabelle’s dowry, and that man, in a big debt, wanted to marry Annabelle in any way possible. Even if it meant forcing himself on her, or by kidnapping her, didn’t matter. He was a creep no doubt who even resorted to blackmail Diana for money when his ‘wooing’ of Annabelle wasn’t going well. And he definitely wasn’t happy about Ian stalking his claim on her.
Unfortunately, Annabelle’s secret dowry creates some problem between her and Ian, who didn’t want a wife with dowry. He’s a man of honor, who didn’t need his wife’s money to get by. The oaf thought Annabelle hid it from him intentionally. Thankfully though, the misunderstanding was solved sooner, rather than later and they finally end up wed. After their marriage, Annabelle finds what she would’ve been missing if she never married; the marriage bed! And oh, she loved Ian’s ways. In fact, after the initial shyness, she couldn’t get enough of it. LOL
When Ian takes Annabelle to his ramshackle estate, that he meant to work on once his inheritance is accessible, he was worried that she’d not like his humble abode. But of course, far from it since Annabelle instantly saw it as her home where she meant to make a life with Ian. Whatever worry Ian had over it, she made it all go away. But what Annabelle wanted was to meet Ian’s estranged family. Her demand, which I didn’t think was illogical, made Ian’s mood rather sour. He knew it was going to happen sooner or later, but he probably wasn’t ready to see his half-brother who ‘betrayed’ him with his ex-fiancée (now his wife). He also hadn’t talked to his mother, which I found rather exasperating. As I mentioned before, I found this whole ‘betrayal’ drama a bit overboard but there it was!
Since Annabelle wouldn’t let it go, Ian finally takes her to meet his family. There, Annabelle seemed to be in her element. She wins them over, makes a friend out of the SIL, Jenny. Ian and Edward though, were still head-butting over that old matter, though it was pretty much apparent that both Jenny and Annabelle were exasperated about it. They wanted water under the bridge and all that.
Annabelle’s dream of making her surly husband love her came to fruition when the villain makes one last bold move where she ends up with a bullet. After that, Ian was smart enough to not to hold out on the three little words he’d been meaning to give back to her. Oh Annabelle had already confessed her feelings many times over, but Ian could be a dunderhead as I’ve already mentioned. His confession definitely made her recovery easier, most especially when they find out Annabelle’s secret joy... she seemed to have caught this baby fever from Diana and Jenny. *heehee*
Overall, Annabelle’s Courtship was a nice little story that I quite enjoyed. It was a pleasant, ofttimes hilarious, read without any big headache inducing drama. 3.5 stars.