A WOMAN ENTANGLED - Cecilia Grant
Blackshear Family, Book 3
Twenty-three years ago Kate's father, Charles Westbrook, married an actress, and his aristocratic family disowned him. He has not spoken to his mother or his brother, the Earl of Harringdon, since. He is now a barrister still happily married with several children. Except Kate feels the family's ostracism from society keenly. Her younger sisters, Bea and Rose, are treated shabbily by other girls at Miss Lowell's school, just as she and Vi were on the presumption her mother, as an actress, was not a virtuous woman. She wants desperately to reunite the fractured family and redeem her father's place. Her plan is to use extremely good manners and her great beauty to win her way into Lady Harringdon's good graces. Then her aunt will introduce her to eligible titled men.
Charles Westbrook was a mentor to young barrister Nick Blackstone, inviting Nick into his home. Nick, like all men, fell in love at his first sight of the beautiful Kate. Three years ago he even proposed only to be rejected, but he remains friends with the family and with Kate. He understands her goals now, and even encourages her because he knows about the pain of family rejection. He and his older brother Arthur haven't spoken with his brother Will. A year ago, after he returned from the war, Will married another man's mistress. Society's condemnation of Will has affected all the brothers. The number of persons seeking Will as a solicitor has dropped significantly, and segments of society have shunned both him and Arthur. He knows he can never renew his offer to Kate because his own situation in worse and newer, so he will attempt to help her reach her goal.
Unexpectedly, Lady Harringdon asks Kate to visit, but as Kate makes a step toward her goal, other obstacles litter her path. When her father learns she may enter society, he asks Nick to watch over her, because they know how unscrupulous certain society men are.
A WOMAN ENTANGLED is an apt title as Kate finds herself torn between her head and her heart. She is open to self-deception that may lead her astray, and certainly London society is a tangle of politeness covering boorish. Nick also finds himself torn between his and his brothers' actions toward their younger brother, all the while missing Will, and he cannot get Kate out of his mind, either. What are a man and a woman to do?
The setting is well developed and seems just like what I imagine the age was like. The characters were also realistic, but I found their introspection often slowed the pace, and while Kate is aiming for an advantageous marriage, she and Nick partake first in kisses and then move on to sexual encounters, so I was somewhat surprised, and this pulled me out of the story. However I did enjoy the efforts by both characters to reestablish their families and felt satisfied as to where their plans eventually led them.