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A Husband for Hire is Patricia A. Knight’s debut historical romance, though not her debut release. She was a new-to-me author, so I didn’t know what to expect. But the blurb of the story intrigued me and I had to give this novel a try. Have to say, I’m glad I did.
A Husband for Hire tells us the story of a plain-looking and speaking spinster, who is also sole heir to her father’s big stud farm and other entailed properties. Lady Eleanor is the only daughter to the Earl of Rutledge is in a rather big dilemma. Their stud farm is one of the best around and the Crown has an eye on it. Eleanor being the only child has no way of stopping it when anything entailed reverts back to the Crown once the Earl passes away; which maybe sooner rather than later as both of her parents are quite elderly. Eleanor was quite a surprise at a later period in their life and both parents have devoted themselves to Eleanor’s care. The Earl has pretty much trained her to be more like a man (or you can say ‘tomboy-ish’?) with the education to go with it, so Eleanor can run the stud farm without any hitch at all. But now, both the Earl and the Countess’s health is failing. This leaves Eleanor to come to a rather drastic decision, something she never thought she’d have to resort to—husband hunting. No, make that husband purchasing, to make sure everything that belongs to the Rutledge Earldom remains within the family.
Eleanor is in her late 20s. She’s not an attractive woman by the Tonnish standard, being too tall and thin, so she remained unmarried. Plus her work around the farm and the horses quite kept her busy, something she takes immense pride in. And even though she’s got plenty of money to have been married earlier, she hasn’t. What I could garner from the beginning that she’d never even considered this possibility...until very recently. All she knows that she has to bribe or buy (or whatever it takes) to find a husband. That way, when her first son is born, she could petition to make him the heir to the Rutledge legacy to stop the Crown from grabbing what she and her father and their thousands of employees worked hard to achieve.
With the help of her lawyer, Eleanor forms this plan. She also reviews a list of so-called ‘candidates’ for her proposal. Peeps who are desperate enough to agree, most of them burdened with some kind of financial crisis. From the whole shady and quite thoroughly unsuitable list, Eleanor could only settle on one person. He simply shines through it by the fact that he’s younger than Eleanor and extremely handsome. Eleanor may have seen him before, and could only think he should be the one. Well, she’s a very practical girl, however Miles Everleigh is SO good-looking that all you can do when you look at him is sigh, after have a major crush on him! :P You may even faint. Heeh! Miles, quite unsurprisingly, has made a name with the more, uh, faster set and the ladies that go with it. Eleanor doesn’t even know he’d consider her proposal, if at all. If the gossips are true, he’s been seen with more attractive older women, and she’s certainly older! But he may have enough financial strains that could lead him to agree to this crazy scheme of hers. Eleanor can only hope that Miles does cause the other prospects are rather unpalatable, and she doesn’t really have much time.
Miles, in his mid 20s, is a ladies’ man, no doubt about it but not quite the way you’d think. He’s been with women, duh! However, after reading more about him, I couldn’t really stack him up with the usual pool of happy-go-lucky rakes that I don’t care to read about. Au contraire, I do have a rather soft spot for gigolos. Yep, I am quite contrary that way. LOL
Miles has financial problems. Being the son of a Duke should’ve given him a better life, but he’s neither the heir nor the spare. He’s the eldest son of Duke of Chelsony’s second marriage. So that makes him the third son with no better prospects. He knows he can’t become a priest and his second brother from the Duke’s first marriage, Duncan, is already serving in the army so he didn’t even have that option open. His father simply won’t risk another son. So when the Duke passed away, and his eldest brother became the Duke, Miles had fallen on hard times. But why?
It’d seem that the Duke’s first marriage wasn’t a happy one, but as mentioned above, it did produce the heir and the spare. But his second marriage to Miles’s French mother proved to be a smashing success. They were in love and Miles and his younger brother, Robert, had all the parental love one can hope for. The Duke had plans to make provisions for his beloved wife, Miles and Robert, but he died rather suddenly before finalizing anything. When Edgar became the Duke, he showed his true self and pretty much cut Miles and his family out of the Duke’s legacy. He had a deep-set resentment for his father’s second family, where it’s vaguely referenced that the Duke had always shown preference to his sons from his second marriage so I could see where it came from, though I don’t condone Edgar’s actions. Miles’s mother wasn’t living as befitting to a Dowager Duchess, making her sad. Miles had no money and Robert became entangled in gambling. It forced him to seek out other ‘ways’ to fund his living and bring Robert out of any trouble he usually gets into.
Out of desperation, Miles had been ‘entertaining’ older ladies, mainly widows, living with them in exchange of boarding and other conveniences. Take it however you want to, but he was selling himself for money, though he did NOT like this lifestyle. Miles had always loved horses and had a plan to open his own stud farm with the money he was to get from his father. That dream never came true. I think he had been saving for that purpose but it was never enough. I felt bad for him TBH. So when Eleanor’s proposal reached him, you can only imagine his surprise, and elation. No, he didn’t really know Eleanor but all he could think was how easy it’d be for him now to purchase that stud farm he’d been eying for a while and start his own business. That he can bring his mother to live with him in comfort and help Robert overcome his own problems even better. Best yet, he won’t have to resort to shady deals to make a living. It didn’t matter that Eleanor wanted a white marriage, AKA a marriage without any consummation. I have no idea how she thought she could beget any heir without the consummation part, but that’s how it was. :/ She was quite nervous (I can totally see why) and wanted the prospective groom (Miles) to go away after marriage taking the money, until he’s summoned back later if necessary.
Good thing was, Miles liked Eleanor from the beginning; everything about her rather refreshing to him. Eleanor was open, there was an artlessness about her that attracted him on the get go. I tried not to be cynical but his regard seemed genuine. Eleanor was nervous and acted stupid after they’d married, humiliating Miles with the mention of his ‘previous lifestyle’. Thankfully, soon she’d come to realize she needs his help in every way possible to thwart Prinny and his delegation. She must make sure they don’t suspect anything and try to annul her marriage. Then it’d be all for nothing! Eleanor decides to apologize, wanting Miles back in her life.
But Miles was the one who surprises the hell out of Eleanor. He’d had already bought that stud farm, made a home there and taken care of several of his problems, including bringing his mother home. After his trouble with Eleanor he’d went back, hoping to find a way to amend this discord. Thankfully he had the best thing to woo her with—one of his prized fillies that he knew would be the pride and glory of any horse race. To say Eleanor was elated with joy would be an understatement. Though it seemed like Miles and Eleanor had made up and was on the verge of becoming a loving couple, there were troubles ahead, not counting the threat Prinny’s peeps were already sending their way.
It’s true that Miles and Eleanor bonded over their shared love of horses. Miles never thought his dream would ever come true, let alone finding a wife who’d actively take part in it and with much gusto, whereas we all know how Eleanor viewed marriage. It wasn’t a part of her plan but when it’s someone like Miles, she could only be thankful because he’s so agreeable! And handsome!! And younger than her, hellooo!!! :D Personally, I think she scored big time because Miles was a gentleman to boots. He showed his regard as best as was possible for him. It was Eleanor who needed the most convincing, and truth be told, I could understand why. Luckily, she does come to realize that it’s better to accept what was in front of her than denying it. Together, they found something to love and appreciate in each-other, both physically and personality-wise. Must be a difficult task to NOT become a ninny for a man when you’re such a practical woman not given to fits and vapors. :P
When I picked up A Husband for Hire, reading about Miles’s ‘occupation’ from the blurb, I had expected a much darker storyline. But there is none of those, so if you’re worried of OW drama there’s no need for that. The romance has a much lighter tone, with two seemingly unsuitable people falling for each-other. There are very vague mentions of Miles’s paramours and his past life. He and Eleanor married pretty much at the beginning of the story and he devoted his whole time behind their horses, when he wasn’t spending his time pleasing Eleanor privately of course. Even though I thought their chemistry wasn’t as electric, I loved quite a few things about this story. One was the fact that Miles was a hard-worker, not one to act entitled just because his father was a Duke. He wanted to work for his dreams. I loved how independent Eleanor was, a smart girl who knew what she was about, even though reading men wasn’t something she was skilled at. She did get better as the story progressed, thanks to Miles’s devoted attentions. ;)
There were a few things that bugged me throughout the story as well. One would be the too formal titles of the characters that were mentioned over and over again in the first part of the story. I didn’t think it was highly necessary, though I could see after reading author’s note why she felt it necessary. If you’re a new reader of Historical Romance, you may want to find out more about that. I also think, Eleanor, being the only child of a peer, shouldn’t be called Lady Russell (which is her father’s surname). She was called thus quite a few times before her marriage to Miles. She should’ve been called Lady Eleanor. The usage of surnames is generally reserved for married women of the peerage; anyone raking below a Duchess. Yes she’d be called Lady Eleanor Russell but in short, Lady Eleanor until her marriage. Then she becomes Lady Miles Everleigh or Lady Everleigh. But my knowledge mostly comes from reading many, many historical romances over the years rather than a proper research so I maybe wrong here.
Another thing I think I have to mention that I couldn’t like; Eleanor’s parents manipulating crucial matters behind her back so she ended up marrying Miles. TBH, it shouldn’t matter cause everything worked out as planned and the couple in question is very happy. But my modern sensibilities couldn’t quite agree to this. There were things that the Earl and the Countess, even Miles’s mother, knew and planned way ahead so that they end up together. It was a big risk and in RL, it could turn out to be a big mistake. Hell, even Miles knew that he was going to be adopted by the Earl so the Rutledge legacy stayed with Eleanor and her offspring. He was also made aware of the fact that the Earl and the Countess had manipulated their marriage, and was requested to keep Eleanor in dark about it as long as possible, which she was until the end of the story. She still thought she *chose* Miles to be her husband. It just was NOT right. Eleanor was intelligent but she was also too trusting. I’m not trying to make a villain out of anyone here, and they did what they thought was good for their only daughter and her future. But I wish Eleanor knew of it all in one way or the other before the story ended. I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded, even thanked her parents profusely. But, personally I would’ve had a bit of closure.
Apart from that though, all in all, I really enjoyed the story and its characters. Totally looking forward to book 2, which will be between Eleanor’s flamboyant friend, Florence and Miles’s brother Duncan, who has just returned home. A widow, Florence hasn’t known love in married life, but she supported Eleanor wholeheartedly from the beginning and prayed Miles saw Eleanor for the amazing girl she was. She was a good friend and a great addition to the storyline. I’m super excited to see how things unfold between her and Duncan, though we’re yet to be introduced. 4 stars for A Husband for Hire. Recommended if you’re looking for a light read without any headache-induced melodrama. Trust me, there was none. Eleanor was too smart and Miles too charming to even consider creating one. It was pretty much a straightforward married couple love-story.
ARC received as a part of the "A Husband for Hire" blog tour hosted by Bare Naked Words, February 16, 2018.