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"Theresa Romain is definitely an author to watch."—RT Book Review
Wooing the Wrong Woman...
Henry Middlebrook is back from fighting Napoleon,...
"Theresa Romain is definitely an author to watch."—RT Book Review
Wooing the Wrong Woman...
Henry Middlebrook is back from fighting Napoleon, ready to re-enter London society where he left it. Wounded and battle weary, he decides that the right wife is all he needs. Selecting the most desirable lady in the ton, Henry turns to her best friend and companion to help him with his suit...
Is a Terrible Mistake...
Young and beautiful, war widow Frances Whittier is no stranger to social intrigue. She finds Henry Middlebrook courageous and manly, unlike the foppish aristocrats she is used to, and is inspired to exercise her considerable wit on his behalf. But she may be too clever for her own good, and Frances discovers that she has set in motion a complicated train of events that's only going to break her own heart...
Praise for Season for Temptation:
"Brilliant, passionate historical romance that will capture your heart."—My Book Addiction Reviews, 4 stars
"Utterly adorable...both passionate and just plain fun."—Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
Tallant House, London
It was no good. The canvas still looked as though a chicken had been killed on it.
Henry Middlebrook grimaced and stepped back...
Tallant House, London
It was no good. The canvas still looked as though a chicken had been killed on it.
Henry Middlebrook grimaced and stepped back, casting his eye over his work. In the cooling light of early evening, his vermilion paint looked ghastly.
He dragged his brush over one corner of the canvas and regarded it again. A slight improvement. Now it looked as if someone had killed a chicken on it, then tried to clean up the evidence.
No matter. He could fix it later somehow. Or hide it in an attic.
As he stepped forward again, ready for another artistic attack, Henry’s foot bumped the fussy baroque table on which he’d set his palette. The palette rattled perilously close to the edge of the table, and Henry swooped for it before it tipped. He lost his grip on his paintbrush and could only watch, dismayed, as the wide brush flipped end over end and landed with a faint thump on the carpet.
“How lovely!” came a cry behind him, and Henry turned.
His sister-in-law Emily, the Countess of Tallant, was standing in the morning room doorway smiling at him. She wore a gown the watery, fragile pink of rose madder, with some part of it pinstriped and some other part of it beaded, and her auburn hair arranged with a quantity of pink-headed pins.
Henry did not understand all the details of women’s fashion, having spent the past three years learning the significance of shoulder epaulets, forage caps, and stovepipe shakos. Still, the effect of Emily’s ensemble was pleasing to anyone with the slightest eye for color—which Henry had, though no one looking at his canvas would possibly think so.
“Good evening, Emily,” he said, shifting his foot to hide the fallen paintbrush. “I might say the same to you. You look very well.”
“Nonsense, Hal,” she said. “This gown is a full year out of fashion and is suitable for nothing but lolling around the house. I must go change for the ball, as must you. What I meant was that it’s lovely to see you painting again.”
She craned her neck to look behind him. “And it’s even lovelier to see you resting your palette on that dreadful table. Jemmy’s Aunt Matilda gave it to us as a wedding gift. I can only conclude she must have hated me.”
Emily walked over to Henry and held out her hand for the paintbrush, which he sheepishly retrieved from the floor. She scrutinized it, then began to daub the gilded table at Henry’s side with red curlicues.
“I’m not the expert you are, of course, but the texture of this red seems a bit off.”
“Yes, it’s too oily. I’m out of practice.”
“Well, that’s easily enough fixed by time. I’m glad we still had some of your supplies left from… well, before.” Emily signed her name with fat, bold brushstrokes to the ruined tabletop. “There, that’s the best this table has ever looked. If you can stand the sight of the beastly thing, then you must have it for your own use while you paint. Surely we can find a studio for you somewhere in the house. You could even keep painting here in the morning room if you don’t mind rolling back the Axminster, of which I’m rather fond.”
Henry looked at the heavy carpet guiltily. A splotch of warm red paint marred the fine sepia pattern of scrolls and bouquets. “I should have done that first thing. I’m sorry, Em.”
She waved a hand. “I understand artists are remarkably forgetful creatures. Once the creative mood seizes you, you cannot be responsible for your actions.”
“Are you giving me an excuse to be an aggravating guest? This could be entertaining.”
Emily’s mouth curled into the cunning smile that meant she was plotting something. “You’re much more than a guest, as you know. But you’re right. I should demand that you pay me a favor for spilling paint all over my possessions.”
Henry took the brush from her and laid it carefully across the palette, atop the newly adorned table. “Let me guess. You already have a favor in mind, and you are delighted I have ruined your carpet, since now you can be sure I’ll agree to whatever you ask.”
Emily looked prouder than ever. “Excellent! We shall slip you back into polite society more easily than I could ever have hoped. Already you are speaking its secret language again, for you are correct in every particular of your guess.”
“I’m overjoyed to be such a prodigy. What, precisely, have I guessed?”
“Tonight, I am going to introduce you to your future wife. What do you think?” She beamed at him, as though she expected him to jump up and start applauding. Which was, of course, impossible.
Henry gripped the edge of the fussy little table tightly. It was difficult to imagine feeling comfortable amidst the ton again—as difficult as it had seemed to leave it three years ago.
But he was just as determined on the former as he’d once been on the latter. Choosing the right wife could be exactly the key he needed to unlock London.
Emily passed a hand in front of his face. “You didn’t answer me, Hal.”
Henry blinked; stalled. “Don’t call me Hal, please.”
She raised her eyes to heaven. “You know perfectly well that I shall never be able to stop calling you Hal in my lifetime, just as you cannot stop calling your brother Jem. We are all far too set in our ways. But that’s not the answer I wanted. What do you think of my idea about finding you a wife? Actually, it was Jemmy’s suggestion, but if you like it, I shall claim it for my own.”
Fortunately, Henry’s elder brother Jeremy, the Earl of Tallant, poked his dark head into the doorway at that moment, saving Henry from a reply. “Em? Aren’t you ready yet? I’ve already had the carriage brought around.”
In his sleek black tailcoat, mathematical-tied linens, and waistcoat of bronze silk, Jem looked every inch the earl. Every inch, that is, except the one between his forehead and nose. His eyes—a bright lapis-blue, the only feature the brothers had in common—held an ignoble amount of doubt just now. “Hal? Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
Henry decided on deliberate obtuseness. “For Lady Applewood’s ball? No, I still have to change my clothing.”
“I’ll send my man up to help you,” Jem replied too quickly.
Emily crossed her arms and regarded her husband slowly, up and down. “You look very elegant, Jemmy. But why are you ready? We aren’t leaving for an hour.”
Jem’s expression turned puzzled. “An hour? But I thought—”
“We must make a grand entrance,” Emily said in a hurried hush. “I told you we shan’t leave until nine.”
Jem shrugged, squeezed by his wife, and came to stand next to Henry. “It’s too dim in here,” he decided as he regarded the painting. “I can’t tell what you’ve painted.”
Henry swept his arm to indicate the baroque table. “This table, for a start. And your carpet. And my breeches a bit.” He regarded his garments ruefully.
Jem nodded. “Rather ambitious for your first effort.”
“Yes. It’s served me well to be ambitious, hasn’t it?”
Jem managed a smile as his eyes found Henry’s. “I suppose it has. Well, best get ready. Em’s told you about our grand plan, hasn’t she?”
“If you mean the plan to marry me off, then yes. I can’t say I’m shocked. I’m only surprised it took her two weeks to broach the subject.”
“She’s been plotting it for weeks.” Jem sighed. “Quite proud of the scheme.”
“I’m still right here,” Emily said from the doorway. “And I am proud of it. It’s just…”
When she trailed off, both brothers turned to her. Emily’s merry face looked sober all of a sudden. “We think you’d be happier, Hal. If you were married.”
Henry pasted a smile across his face. “Don’t worry about me. I’m quite as happy as can be expected.”
Emily studied him for a long moment, then nodded. “One hour, Hal. Jemmy, do come with me. You may help me decide which dress to wear.”
The earl followed his wife. “It doesn’t matter, Em. You always look marvelous. Besides which, you never wear what I choose.”
“That’s because you’d send me out with no bodice. Honestly, Jem!”
Their voices quieted as they moved down the corridor, and Henry allowed the smile to drop from his face. He could guess what they’d begun talking about: just how happy was he?
He’d given them a truthful answer on the surface of it. He was as happy as could be expected. But a man in his situation had little enough reason for happiness.
Still, he had determination. Surely that was even more important. With enough determination, happiness might one day follow.
He dragged his easel to the edge of the morning room and gave his painting one last look.
Just as horrible as he’d thought. But in time, it would get better.
With a rueful shake of the head, he left behind his first foray back into painting and went upstairs to prepare for his first foray back into London society.
Frances Whittier was too much of a lady to curse in the crowded ballroom of Applewood House. Barely.
But as she limped back to her seat next to Caroline, the Countess of Stratton, she found the words a gently bred widow was permitted to use completely inadequate.
“Mercy,” she muttered, sinking into the frail giltwood chair. “Fiddle. Goodness. Damn. Oh, Caro, my toes will never recover.”
Caroline laughed. “Thank you for accepting that dance, Frannie. The last time I danced with Bart Crosby, he stepped on my toes twelve times. Oh, and look—I think I’ve cracked the sticks of my fan.”
Frances wiggled her feet. “He’s improving, then, for I’m sure he stepped on mine only ten.” She exchanged her own unbroken fan for Caroline’s. “And if you would quit batting everyone with your fan, it wouldn’t break.”
“I can’t help it,” Caroline said. “Lord Wadsworth puts his hands where they don’t belong, and the only way to remove them is by physical force.”
“In that case, we should have a new fan made for you of something much sturdier than ivory. A nice rosewood should help him remember his manners.”
“Or wrought iron, maybe?” Caroline replied, and Frances grinned. Caroline was in quite a good humor tonight and more than willing to share it.
The role of companion to a noblewoman was often seen as thankless, but except when her toes were trod upon, Frances found her position quite the opposite. Maybe because her employer was also her cousin, or maybe just because Caroline was cheerful and generous. The young countess had been locked away in the country for the nine years of her marriage; now that her year of mourning for her elderly husband was complete, she collected admirers with the deliberate joy of a naturalist catching butterflies.
Frances enjoyed helping Caroline sort through the possibilities, though she knew her cousin was as determined to guard her independence as Frances had once been to fling hers away.
“What’s next, Caroline? Are you of a mind to dance anymore?” Frances leaned against the stiff back of her chair. It was not at all comfortable, but it was better than having her feet stomped on.
“I think I will, but not just yet.” The countess leaned in, conspiratorial under the din of hundreds of voices bouncing off a high ceiling. “Emily has told me she’s bringing her brother-in-law tonight, and she intends to introduce us. He’s a war hero, just back in London after three years on the Continent.”
“A soldier?” Frances said faintly. The hair on her arms prickled from a sudden inner chill.
Caroline shot her a knowing look. “Yes, a soldier. That is, a former soldier. He should be intriguing, don’t you think?”
“I have no doubt of it.” Frances’s throat felt dust-dry. “At any rate, he won’t be one of your tame puppies.”
“All the better.” Caroline adjusted the heavy jonquil silk of her skirts with a practiced hand. “They’re so much more fun when they don’t simply roll over, aren’t they?”
Frances coughed. “I can’t really say. I haven’t rolled over since I was widowed, you know.”
Caroline raised an eyebrow. “Maybe it’s time you changed that.”
“Believe me, I’ve thought of it.”
Caroline chuckled, though Frances’s smile hung a little crooked. Any reference to her brief, tempestuous marriage that ended six years before still trickled guilt down her spine. Which was probably why she hadn’t rolled over in so long.
“How do I look?” Caroline murmured. “Satisfactory enough?”
Frances smoothed the dark blue crape of her own gown, then cast an eye over Caroline. With quick fingers, she tugged one of the countess’s blond curls into a deliberate tousle, then nodded. “You’ll do very well, though I think you’ve lost a few of your jeweled hairpins.”
Caroline pulled a droll face. “Tonight’s casualties: one fan, an undetermined number of hairpins. I don’t suppose a soldier would regard those as worthwhile, but I rather liked them all.”
“They were lovely,” Frances agreed. “I saw Lady Halliwell hunting the same hairpins on Bond Street after you last wore them five weeks ago.”
“Oh, horrors.” Caroline frowned. “She’ll remember that I’ve worn these before.”
“If she does, it won’t matter, because she admires you greatly. Besides, she wasn’t able to get any for herself. I’d already put the remaining stock on your account.”
Caroline looked impressed. “You do think of everything, don’t you?”
“I do. I really do.” Frances permitted herself a moment of pride before adding, “But if Lord Wadsworth calls on you again, he’d better bring you a new fan.”
“And himself some new manners,” murmured Caroline. “Oh, look, I see Emily now.”
Frances squinted, picking out Caroline’s good friend Lady Tallant pushing through the crowd. The countess wore a grin on her face and her husband on one arm. A tall, fair-haired man followed a step behind. The war-hero brother, no doubt; his taut posture was military-perfect, his handsome face a calm cipher.
Caroline lifted her—well, Frances’s—fan as soon as the trio were within a polite distance. “Emily! You look beautiful, as usual. How do you keep your silks from getting creased in the crowd?”
Lady Tallant did a quick pirouette to show off her indigo ball gown. “Jemmy uses his elbows to keep the crowd away. Isn’t he a wonder?”
“Elbows, Caroline,” muttered Frances, “would work much better than your fan the next time Wadsworth becomes too free with his hands.”
Her cousin gave a short cough of laughter. “Ah—yes, he is indeed a wonder. Jem, never let it be said there’s no place for chivalry these days.”
“I won’t,” said the earl gravely. “After all, I sacrifice the tailoring of my coat each time I drive out an elbow.”
His wife rolled her eyes, then inclined her head to the man at her side. “Caro, Mrs. Whittier. We’re here to make an introduction.”
Frances could have sworn Caroline wiggled a little, though she managed to keep her face calm. “Oh? To a friend of yours?”
“Much better than that.” The earl bowed. “To my brother, Henry Middlebrook. He’s quite a war hero. Perhaps you’ve heard of his adventures on the Continent?”
The fair-haired man shot his brother a look so filthy that Frances made a little ha of surprise. He cut his eyes toward Frances and quickly composed his expression.
Lady Tallant must have noticed her brother-in-law’s glare, because she swatted her husband with her fan. “Jemmy,” she hissed.
Lord Tallant blinked. “Er, ah, forgive me. Er, Hal has been recently traveling on the Continent. For, ah, personal enrichment.”
Another filthy look from the brother, another swat from the wife’s fan. Lord Tallant looked positively discombobulated now. Next to Frances, Caroline was beginning to shake with suppressed giggles.
Frances grinned. The cipher of a soldier was actually rather entertaining. Interest crackled through her body, the fatigue of the long evening seeping away.
“What, Emily?” said the earl in a beleaguered voice. “God’s teeth, stop hitting me. You’ll mar my coat if you keep that up.”
“Well, you’ll mar my fan,” retorted his wife. “Never mind, Jemmy. You are hopeless. Caro, here is Henry. He is positively salivating to meet you. You too, Mrs. Whittier.”
The man stepped forward with a wry smile. This close, he proved to be just as tall and well made as he had appeared from a distance. His eyes crinkled with good humor; his hair glinted as gold as Caroline’s under the hot light of the chandeliers.
“Do forgive my salivation,” he said. “Having been away from London, I suppose I’ve forgotten the proper manners.”
Caroline shrugged. “Have you? Well, if you’re living with Emily, you won’t need manners.”
Lady Tallant smirked. “And if he spends more than a minute with you, Caro, he’ll need smelling salts.”
“I doubt that,” Mr. Middlebrook said smoothly into the middle of this friendly volley. “I rarely get the vapors.”
“Nor do I.” Caroline gifted him with a sunlit smile and extended her hand. “I’m delighted to meet you, Mr. Middlebrook. Perhaps we shall be good friends.”
He returned the smile and bowed over her hand with impeccable military bearing.
And his right arm swung down, down, loose as the limb of a puppet.
When he straightened, his face pale, Frances noticed what she had failed to see before: his right arm hung stiff and wasted within its sleeve, facing painfully backward.
War widow Frances ‘Frannie’ Whittier finds Henry more attractive and courageous than the other men of society, so she decides to help him in his quest for a wife. The daughter of a baronet, Frannie’s family turned their backs on her when she married Charles, the son of an innkeeper. But her love for Charles had survived, even as his love for her had begun to fade. She had thought their separation was only temporary, but then he had been killed in battle. Disowned by her family and with her husband dead, all she has left for the previous twenty-three years of her life is a box of memories. Until now, Henry is the only man to stir her interest since Charles’ death. So she writes him a letter, letting him know of her interest in him and just signs it as ‘your friend’. However, Henry believes the letter is from Caroline. Although Frannie attempts to set him straight, he is so delighted that Caroline has written to him that she lets the misunderstanding stand. Not wanting to upset Henry, Frannie continues to correspond with him as Caroline.
As Henry spends more time with Caroline, he begins to realize that he can never recapture his life as it was before the war and there is only one woman who stirs his desire…Frannie. As things heat up between Henry and Frannie, he begins to think of making her his wife. But when he discovers her deception, will he forgive her, or will it end their relationship?
The first book in author Theresa Romain’s MATCHMAKER trilogy, IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE is an enticing, sensual historical romance that sweeps you away with its tale of second chances. Vulnerable and beaten down by their pasts, but not defeated, Henry and Frannie each seek a second chance at life and love. Together, they just may find it. Having lost the use of his right arm in battle, Henry is determined to learn to use his left just as well as he used to use his right. To his delight, Frannie is instrumental in helping him accomplish that goal.
A combination of tender romance, passion, witty banter, secrets, healing, forgiveness and love make this story absolutely delightful. Regency fans will not want to miss this beautifully written saga! Readers who enjoy this story may also be interested in Ms. Romain’s upcoming novel, the second in the MATCHMAKER trilogy, TO CHARM A NAUGHTY COUNTESS, due out in May 2014. Meanwhile, take my advice and pick up a copy of IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE!
Henry Middlebrook has returned to London after fighting Napoleon and losing the use of his right arm. Henrys brother and sister-in-law are worried about him and decide to help him find a wife. Caroline, the widowed Countess of Stratton, a favorite of the ton, seems a likely candidate. When Henry meets Caroline, he decides to try and woo her, but she is surrounded by admirers. Because of this, Henry seeks help from Carolines companion, Francis Whittier.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE is an enjoyable Regency romance with complex characters, but something of a lull in pacing during the middle of the book. Henry has to adapt to his new reality and try to fit back into society after the horrors of war. Although, at first, Henry sets his sights on Caroline, he soon finds himself drawn to Francis. Francis is an intelligent woman with lots of spunk, and she is just the remedy, that Henry needs to overcome some of his obstacles.
All in all, IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE is an entertaining book with a lovely couple, which I recommend.
Henry Middlebrook is recently returned from fighting Napoleon’s troops and is trying to make his way back to polite society. He has lost the use of the arm but is determined that winning the hand of the most eligible lady of the Ton will bring him back to where he deserves to be. In order to win the enchanting Lady Stratton’s heart, Henry enlists the assistance of her companion, Mrs. Frances Whittier. Frances’ life has been monotonous since her husband died several years before, and so she agrees to help the entertaining Mr. Middlebrook as he, at least, sees her for who she is. As time passes Frances and Henry are drawn inexorably closer together, and soon find that what they think they need and what they actually need are two different things.
I’ve read hundreds of Regency romances - this book stands out from the rest as being a singular joy to read. Too often Regency heroines are inexperienced girls and the heroes are dashing rakes. In It Takes Two to Tangle, neither character fits this stereotype; as a result the characters are able to behave outside the strict behavioral rules of the Ton and still be plausible. The book has the common Regency themes of disparate social classes causing problems and with scandals arising from perceived impropriety, but Henry and Frances are so refreshing to read, the book never feels trite or boring. I rooted for these two to get together nearly from page one. The plot moved quickly enough to keep me reading but never felt rushed. In short, it was a beautifully written story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
He could have kissed her for hours, sinking into the wonder of it. The magic of human hands, of mouth on mouth. The way lips fit together, nipped and pulled. Such small gestures that could wake such tremendous needs. This time, his need came not from starvation buy from fullness. He was brimming with awe, sipping gingerly at the pleasure of her touch, then drinking it in greedily.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE by Theresa Romain is an engaging Regency Historical Romance 1815 England. The first in her new and exciting trilogy, “The Matchmaker”. Wooing the wrong woman could be dangerous or a terrible mistake for a wounded Napoleon weary soldier. War widow, Frances Whittier and war weary Henry Middlebrook are headed for disaster or at the very least one of them may need up with a broken heart. If Shakespeare only knew….. Filled with passion,wit,a bit of humor, two engaging characters, and a boat load of trouble. You do not want to miss “It Takes Two To Tangle” for it does take two plus a whole lot of romance for love to appear on the horizon. How can you go wrong? You can’t! So go and pick up this intriguing story of Frances and Henry!! What a great read from a talented Regency author! A must read! Received for an honest review from the publisher.
HEAT RATING: MILD
Title: It Takes Two to Tangle
Author: Theresa Romain
Publication Info: Sourcebooks September 2013
It Takes Two to Tangle It Takes Two to Tangle by Theresa Romain reminds me a lot of a high school rom com; it’s all about realizing the “cool” kids don’t matter, and the handsome hero falling for the popular girl’s best friend. If you’re into that kind of thing, particularly the “less cool” girl winning out, then pick this book up ASAP. If, like me, you prefer the hero to be a little more mature, it may grate on your nerves a bit.
I’ve been teetering on the edge of my Regency Romance Saturation Point, but I had to read this book because it features one of my favorite tropesthe Tragically Wounded Hero. It also has a great opening line:
It was no good. The canvas still looked as though a chicken had been killed on it.
Henry Middlebrook, youngest son of an earl, is just back from war. An aspiring artist, he’s trying to learn to paint, and to live, with the use of his left arm only. His right arm was irreparably damaged in the battle of Quatre Bras (there’s irony for you). Henry feels like damaged goods. He’s horribly self conscious of his right arm hanging uselessly by his side. He’s also uncomfortable with the fact that his sister-in-law, the Countess of Tallant, is determined to see him married off this season. She drags him to a ball where he meets Caroline, Lady Stratton, and Frances Whittier.
Caroline is a rich and beautiful widowall blonde hair and green eyes. She’s the toast of the ton, with bachelors vying for her attention and hand in marriage. Frances is Caroline’s cousin and companionshe’s not an ugly duckling by any means, but she isn’t traditionally beautiful. She’s also poor, and depends on Caroline’s charity to survive. She’s treated politely by society, but is regarded as a servant.
So basically, Caroline is the prom queen, and Frances is her cousin and bestie who works on the yearbook. No one notices Frances, but she’s awesome. She introduces herself to Henry:
Lady Strattona guinea-gold vision, as painfully beautiful as Emily had told himsimply stared [at his arm] dumbstruck. The woman at his side recovered first. Darkhaired and olive-skinned, she had a roguish look as she extended her left hand to shake his. "I’m pleased to meet you, sir. I am Lady Stratton’s cousin and companion, Mrs. Whittier, and I am generally thought to be terrifying.”
I loved Frances. She’s witty, cynical, and a great deal of fun. She doesn’t care much for convention, and she calls it like she sees it. She likes soldiers (her late husband was one), and couldn’t care less about Henry’s arm. She thinks he’s very handsome. So clearly, she’s the right match for Henry.
Except he’s a doofus and doesn’t get that yet.
Henry sees beautiful, blonde Caroline and thinks, “Bingo! There’s my ticket to acceptance by the ton!” He’s very emo about it:
I cannot stand it if they speak of it [his arm]. But I cannot bear it if they don’t.
Surely Lady Stratton must want a man who is whole. But after living through the hell of Quatre Bras, surely I’ve earned the right to pursue whateverwhomeverI desire.
He decides that he will win Caroline’s hand, and therefore prove to the world that he is still good enough. It made me sad, honestly.
Meanwhile he and Frances strike up quite a rapport. There is a palpable, sizzling attraction between them, but Henry ignores it to pursue Caroline. He sees her as beautiful, objectively, but he doesn’t feel the same desire for her that he does for Frances.
Henry and Frances share an evening of witty banter, while Caroline more or less keeps to herself. The next day Henry receives a letter signed only “Your Friend.” The writer of the letter details how much fun she had at the ball with Henry and how she hopes they can keep up their acquaintance. It is obvious to everyone in the fucking universe this letter is from Frances, who actually spent time with Henry at the ball. Henry, however, has his head up his ass and thinks the letter is from Caroline.
Henry invites Frances overshe thinks because he got the letter and wants to be pals and maybe more (she didn’t sign it because a widow sending letters to a bachelor is apparently inviting scandal). Instead Henry says “Hey, look at this cool letter Caroline sent me! You’re her bestie, how can I get her to hook up with me? Can you pass her this note after math?”
Stupid, stupid Henry.
And poor, poor Frances. I was crushed for her. She’s so embarrassed that she doesn’t reveal she was the author of the letter, and instead teaches Henry to write left-handed.
Did I mention how awesome Frances is? She’s funny and smart, and she doesn’t care what other people think of her. Wadsworth, one of Caroline’s other suitors and the token douche and villain in this book, takes pains to humiliate Frances and remind her that she’s servant and therefore beneath him. At one point he drops a tray of sandwiches, making it look as though Frances did it. Instead of being embarrassed she retaliates with ease:
“Since I’m Lady Stratton’s companion," she said in her sweetest voice, "it is my responsibility to help her callers, even if their behavior is asinine and rude…Not that I refer to you, of course. I am sure in your mind, it’s perfectly normal to throw sandwiches onto the floor. Shall we leave them right there, or would you prefer to arrange them into a pattern? Do you mean to eat all of them? Shall I get you a cup of tea for you to wash down your floor sandwiches?”
And then she dropped the mic.
I love this girl. She’s got her head on straightexcept when it comes to Henry.
Against Frances’ better judgment, the correspondence continues. Henry keeps thinking the letters are from Caroline, even though she is cool to him in person, and Frances knows he’s misunderstanding the situation. Henry starts to fall in love with Frances without even knowing it. Frances won’t clarify things because she’s too ashamed and because she’s the poor cousin of a rich widow, not a great match for the son of an earl. She knows Henry is above her.
I really enjoyed the tension the letters created. Frances and Henry are such a great pair, they share such wonderful dialogueboth spoken and writtenbut are kept apart by embarrassment and misunderstanding.
When Henry and Frances meet up again at another ball, the sexual tension between them has ratcheted up to nuclear levels. They share a particularly hot, almost-sex scene secreted away in a corner of the assembly hall. Frances is the one who initiates the kissing, who takes mattersand Henry’s erectioninto her own hands. Even if she knows she can’t have Henry long-term, she wants a night with him.
This part of the book irked me. I liked that Frances was a woman who was willing to go for what she wanted. I didn’t like that Henry allowed thinks to progress nearly to intercourse before throwing the brakes on the sexy-train. I mean, he knows he’s pursuing Caroline. He knows it’s wrong to be diddling her cousin in the backroomit’s not fair to either woman, but he just can’t help himself. Once again, a hero is lead astray by his wayward peen.
To his credit, it’s that same night that Henryfinallyrealizes he has feelings for Frances. At this point, Caroline, Henry’s brother, his sister-in-law, his best friend, and the butler know he’s in love with Frances. It’s probably been elegantly scrawled on a men’s room wall somewhere “Henry Fancies Frannie.” Henry and Frances are the only two people in the whole wide world who are oblivious.
But it’s not just their obtuseness keeping them apart. Frances is worried that when Henry finds out about her pastparticularly the way her marriage endedhe won’t love her. She lied to her last husband and it drove them apart, and now that she’s lying to Henry about the letters, she’s afraid the past is repeating itself.
Henry is still way too concerned about how he’s perceived by society for having a bad arm. He’s also guilty about the men who died under his command at Quatre Bras. Sometimes his preoccupation with how the ton perceived him read as juvenile to me. I felt, a little bit, that a man who saw the horrors of war up close would have a sense of perspective that would enable him to care a little less about what the dandies in London thought. Henry had a lot of growing up to do in this book, and I wanted him to get off his ass and do it quickly.
For all my bitching about Henry, I quite liked this It Takes Two to Tangle. It captured me emotionally, and I loved, loved, love the heroine. I also really, really wanted Henry and Frances to get together. It elicited the same reaction in me as my favorite Jane Austen books do “Jesus you two! Can’t you just FIGURE IT OUT AND GET TOGETHER!?” Even though I knew this book came with a HEA guaranteed, I was afraid somehow Henry and Frances would wind up apart. Romain’s ability to draw me into the story that deeply is impressive.
If you’re a Regency fan who likes unconventional heroines, pick this book up for sure. If you like the Tragically Wounded Hero, like I do, pick it up. If you need your hero to really have his shit together, you may want to avoid it. Henry gave me heartburn sometimes, but the great conflict, and a kick ass heroine, kept me reading.
Theresa Romain begins her Matchmaker trilogy with It Takes Two to Tangle. Set in the Regency period, it is the story a man returned from war with scars both physical and emotional, who believes finding just the right wife will solve all his problems. Romain uses strong characters, witty banter and Cyrano de Bergerac type situation to bring her story to life for readers. With everything from secret letters to a duel, this novel has all the right elements of a great historical romance!
Writing about the ton and the Regency time period is often a challenge for some writers. Theresa Romain, however has done her homework. Her characters, as well as, the customs of the times and the societal rules are all represented well in It Takes Two to Tangle. I found it interesting that the author was able to show why it was so very important for the hero to reclaim is place in society and why the ton was so hard to accept those who faced any kind of adversity. I liked the fact that Romain did not turn her story into a history lesson but was able to add bits and pieces of interesting things about the Regency period without overwhelming the reader.
The heroine Frances was a jewel. She wasnt perfect and had things in her past that caused her pain and embarrassment. She was a war widow and was somewhat resigned to the fact, though she longed for love and appreciation. By not signing her name on the first letter she writes to Henry she sets herself up for a lie. And one lie leads to another and another until Frannie is in deep trouble, when she realizes she is falling in love with a man who thinks she is someone else. I liked her frank manner and her wit. She was sharp and intelligent and readers will find a very interesting character.
Henry is such an interesting character. Not only was he a solider, but also an artist. When a tragic injury takes both of those careers from him, Henrys determination is nothing less than amazing. I got a little sidetracked as to why he believed finding the perfect wife was the answer to all his troubles, but it certainly added to the plot. Henry was like a bulldog, focused, determined and somewhat blind to what was right in front him... but lets face it... most men are! (LOL).
It took a little while for the plot to wind around to where it needed to go for Francis and Henry to find their happy ever after, but I think that was part of the beauty of it. Love doesnt happen overnight, not even in Regency times. I liked the fact that Romain, made it real journey for these characters to get past their own issues. Francis nearly sabotaged the relationship by lying to Henry in the first place and Henry was so blinded by his plan, that he nearly lost the love of his life. They were both really good at getting in their own way. I thought Romain did a fantastic job of working it all out. Including Henrys issues with the lose of his hand.
This novel flows very well. The transitions are smooth and the story was really interesting to me. I liked the whole Cyrano-ish plot device and the duel was amazing. This is definitely a must read for Regency fans and for those who want something a little different. In short... I loved it!
Im giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Theresa Romain’s new Matchmaker Trilogy starts off with a bang with It Takes Two to Tangle. She offers us unique characters who are drawn to each other in friendship and discover something more. I easily consumed this and was delighted Romain offered a different dish from the usual courses served in this genre. Three word review: warm, enchanting and romantic.
Henry Middlebrook has returned from the war with a useless right arm and is trying to readjust. Prior to the war he was a painter and he attempts to paint with his left hand. He is currently residing with his brother and sister-in-law. It is decided that a wife is exactly what he needs to launch himself back into society and his sister-in-law plays the matchmaker introducing him to society’s gem, Caroline. As he tries to gain her favor he seeks the help of her companion the war widow Frances Whittier. She finds Henry to be enchanting and sets out to befriend him and help him. A serious of misunderstands, and fireside confessions held me captive as I looked for my HEA.
Henry is a most unusual hero as he tries to find himself and deal with issues left over from the war. He is reinventing himself and of course is going about it all wrong but that’s what makes the tale delightful. Frances has guilty over her first marriage and the death of her husband. She owes Caroline the world for taking her in and her life is not an easy one. She is one step above a maid despite her rank before marriage. She is completely attracted to Henry and finds him to be quite fascinating. I laughed because Henry is the most clueless hero I have ever encountered and watching Frances try to woo him was delightful. Frances is witty and can put Henry at ease but for all of her external confidence she is very fearful of rejection. I loved the banter between the two of them and all of the missed signals. At times I wanted them just to confess all, which kept me engaged.
It Takes Two to Tangle was romantic, warm and left you feeling good. I loved that the hero and heroine were refreshingly different. Frances was witty and I loved how she dealt with some of the snobs of the ton. I think at times she wanted to scream, “Look at me, Henry!” and I wish she would have. The romance was sweet, felt genuine and grew out of friendship. The pacing and move towards our HEA was well done, with twists and just enough drama to engage us but not overwhelm our senses. We do get a few heated scenes that are discreetly done and felt natural for the couple. I am anxious to read the next book in the trilogy and hope we continue to see unique, fleshed out characters.
Fans of historical romances, fleshed out characters and a refreshing twist will delight It Takes Two to Tangle’s sweet romance.
Three and half cups of coffee out of five
Only a very special book can make you fall in love with a genre again. It Takes Two to Tangle did just that, rekindling my love of historical romance. Theresa Romain has a talent, a rare ability to blend beautiful writing, great characters, delicious banter and a lovely romance, all in one perfect package.
ITTtT is simply beautiful, inside and out; the cover sweeps you away to Regency England as does the story contained inside. Within a few chapters, I knew it was to be a favorite of mine, and I look forward to enjoying Romains books again in the future.
I loved how the sparks flew between Henry and Frances. There were more than a few such passages that I marked, though I wont be sharing them today, as they were fairly longsorry! You shall just have to trust meif you love wit and banter in your romance (and who doesnt?) then you will love this book!
As wonderful as the story and characters are, it is Romains writing that captured my attention the most. She has a way of writing that turns a seemingly simple scene into a powerful one. Take this one, for example:
He twisted his living left hand beneath her rightshe thought at first to free it from her grasp. But he simply rotated it, placing his hand palm to palm with hers. Fingers wrapped around fingers, their sensitive pads awakening each other with pressure as light as the feather on a quill. The contact was simple, everyday, yet almost unbearably intimate.
And it was too uncertain; it could mean everything or nothing. A naked hand to a naked hand was a pact between business partners, a promise between friends, a beginning for lovers.
Truly, her writing is gorgeous and it made me feel as if I were there with Frances and Henry. Well done, Ms. Romain, and thank you for this delightful story!
This first book in The Matchmaker Trilogy was a delightful surprise. Witty and romantic with characters that are interesting, easy to like and disike. Eveything you look for in a regency. I will read more from Thesesa Romain
If Kincaids prosthetic hand makes it difficult for him to play his bagpipes, Henry Middlebrooks missing right hand, in Theresa Romains It Takes Two to Tangle, makes it difficult for him to paint. No prosthetics are possible in a novel set in 1815, so war widow Frances Mullier is shocked when Henry Middlebrook bows and his right arm swings down, “loose as the limb of a puppet.” Frances immediately vows to make Henry happy again, promising to help him court her friend Caroline. Frances and Henry are irresistible, funny, and sexy, and yet beneath their romance lies a bedrock of painful feelings. Between them, they overcome the weight of loss and the barrier of pride: It Takes Two to Tangle is a beautifully written novel that balances laughter with healing.
Henry Middlebrook was an aspiring painter before he became an aspiring soldier and went off to war. He has returned home a hero from the siege of Quatre Bas, but his heroism came with a cost: the loss of his right hand. Now he is neither a soldier nor a painter and his well-meaning family is encouraging him to return to society.
Upon the urging of his sister in-law, Henry makes the acquaintance of Caroline, Lady Stratton, a widow and one of the most sought-after catches of the season. One look at Caroline and Henry knows that he needs Caroline: he needs her confidence, connections and, most especially, her popularity. Seeing the competition for Carolines attention, Henry employs the assistance of Carolines companion, Frances.
Frances Whittier is also a widow and Carolines cousin. Frances is Carolines eyes and ears among the Ton and is used to fading into the background Henrys attentions comes as a surprise to Frances and thus begins a partnership and friendship of sorts.
"Its quite all right," she said quickly. "So we both have dreadful nicknames. Is it not odd how the people who are closest to us persist in addressing us as if we are six years old?"
"That may be the last time they saw us clearly."
Frances looked thoughtful. "You may be right. And that might not be a bad thing. I was a much better person at the age of six than I am now."
- loc 398
Then a letter is delivered to Henry, sealed with Lady Strattons family symbol. The letter and its content encourages Henry to further his courtship of Caroline and he needs Francess help more than ever.
What Henry doesnt know is that while the letter came from Carolines household, it was not written by Caroline.
It Takes Two to Tangle is the first book in Theresa Romains Matchmaker series. It is clear that Henrys sister in-law, Emily, the Countess of Tallant, who plays the matchmaker between Caroline and Henry but, to make matters more interesting, Caroline seems to be doing some matchmaking between Henry and Frances.
There are clues that would support this:
1. Caroline starts lending Frances some gowns to wear for their social outings. Prior to their introduction to Henry, Frances was wearing her more sensible clothes.
2. Caroline knew that Frances was borrowing her seal and "using" her name in the letters to Henry.
Theresa Romain draws two portraits in this novel: the soldier returned home from war and the war widow.
Soldiers are heroes, but soldiers also come home from war with wounds outside and inside and they are left with the challenge of picking up the pieces of the life left they left behind and building up a new life. Such is the case of Henry Middlebrook. As far as his family is concerned, hes home and that is the end of the story. But it is not the end for Henry, it is the beginning and a difficult one. He cant use his right hand so he cant paint or write anymore he cannot dine properly or hold flowers while courting. Henry cannot go back to his former life and he is finding it hard to define himself in his new form.
He ran his fingers through the loops of the Brussels carpet. Jems carpet, in Jems house. He was even wearing Jems clothing today. Everything he had was Jems, really, except for Winter Cottage. Henry could slide out of London without leaving a trace of himself behind.
But no. It was no more right for Mister Middlebrook to turn tail and run now than it would have been for Captain Middlebrook to do so in Bayonne or Brussels. Or Quatre Bras.
- loc 510
What is Caroline to Henry? A prize. A trophy proof that he can still charm and win women. Henry is aware of this but he cannot apologize for his actions because he believes he needs Caroline if he is to have any semblance of a social life.
This picture of Henry is off-focus he sees the goal but not whats beyond it. Its a Henry who doesnt know which direction to look: to the past or to the future. Enter Frances the companion. Shes supposed to just be the sidekick, the best friend, the foil but it is with Frances that Henry feels a wholeness a sense of completeness, a sense of contentment, a chemistry but, poor Henry, is too intent on his original goal to realize this.
When Frances is first introduced to us, she is defined by her widowhood and that her late husband was a soldier. War widows also have their own mark of heroism: the sacrifice they made while their husbands were at war and the grief and loss that they carry with the death of their husbands but there is more to Francess story than that. A story more tragic that has left Frances feeling a bit ashamed and regretful and these are the emotions that inform her decisions and her present life.
Frances defies being typecasted as a secondary character or even as the plain one in the "love triangle" between her, Henry and Caroline. She is intelligent and observant and sensitive to the people around her.
She was always out of step. She had grown up in wealth but married a workingman. Now she served as a companion, yet she raised her eyes to the son of an earl. She did not know for which world she was better suited. At times, both lives chafed, as though she lived in a garment cut wrongly and fitted for anothers body.
- loc 1643
Theresa Romains It Takes Two to Tangle shows us that there is always more to the story. Ive been reading Theresa Romain since her debut novel and, I have to say, her star is rising. This was an incredibly insightful novel with biting wit and raw emotions.
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 6.00 oz
Page Count: 352 pages