Gilded Web

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Expected Release Date: November 28, 2006
Publisher: Bantam
Imprint: Dell
Author’s Website: www.marybalogh.com
My Source for This Book: Local Library
Part of a Series: Book 1, Web Series
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Overly Stubborn Heroine
Favorite Tropes: Marriage to Avoid Scandal, (Emotionally) Abused Heroine

Official Blurb:

From one of America’s most beloved storytellers comes a classic love story—the breathtaking tale of a man and a woman caught in a web of temptation and seduction.

All she wanted was to escape the hot, crowded London ballroom. But moments after stepping into the bitterly cold night, she is seized by a pair of strong hands and spirited away. Fully expecting to be ravished, sheltered Alexandra Purnell instead finds herself at the mercy of the man who saved her from certain scandal. Edmund, Earl of Amberley, is bold and sensual, tempting Alexandra to be reckless for the first time in her life. But as passion ignites, Edmund’s offer of marriage takes Alexandra completely by surprise. Now a woman who craves her freedom above all else is about to discover how far one man will go to protect and possess the woman he loves.…

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved James, and I’m dying to know just what happened to him that caused him to become so bitter and cynical and cold. 
  • I also enjoyed the “abuse” factor — Alex wasn’t beaten (well, the argument could be made that she was up to the age of 16, but still) or sexually assaulted, but instead her father was overly pious and her life had been very painful emotionally.
  • love stories where the heroine is forced to marry to avoid scandal for something of which she is entirely blameless. I enjoy when unjust situations end in a happily ever after for those involved.
  • I did enjoy when Alex finally stood up to her father as an adult, rather than meekly taking his word as the Gospel and meekly submitting to his harsh punishments.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I never thought this book would end.  Granted, I read it on Kindle, so I had no idea what the actual page count was while I was reading it, but it simply dragged to the point that I almost put it down, but I had already passed a certain percentage and didn’t want to have wasted my time.
  • I found myself far more interested in the siblings of the protagonists than I did in their own relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good “secondary” romance, but I had to stop myself from skimming on several occasions when the attention turned back to Edmund and Alex.
  • A minor point, when one considers just how much else I disliked about this book, but I don’t care for the “hero” of a story to have sex with other women after it becomes apparent he will have to marry the heroine.  In this particular case, it wasn’t that big of a deal, because he’d not yet become betrothed to her, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
  • On a similar note, there was far too much time spent on the side characters, from Edmund’s siblings to everyone’s parents to people who lived in the village.
  • This book was depressing. I didn’t realize going into it that all that time and effort that was being put into the secondary romances was merely setup for future books in the series, but only Alex and Edmund got a “happy” ending, which means that there are a whole heck of a lot of miserable people at the end of this book.
  • Alex was ridiculous. I could, to a point, understand her bitterness at being forced into marriage, but she acted like a spoiled child, ready to cut off her nose to spite her face. I wanted to slap her for the vast majority of the novel, including what should have been a much happier ending.

Mary Balogh books have always been very hit or miss with me. I either really enjoy them or end up completely disgusted with them. Unfortunately, this one falls into the latter category.

The heroine, Alexandra, had such potential — having been raised in an unloving, ridiculously strict environment, and being forced into an unwanted marriage to a stranger because of something that was completely out of her control, this was her chance for her to really shine. Instead, she acted like a spoiled brat, even going so far as to refuse to marry the man she’d fallen deeply in love with because everyone else told her she had to marry him. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

Don’t get me wrong, I could understand how she would chafe at having her entire world turned upon its head by a thoughtless prank of strangers, and how frustrating her situation had to have been, but there comes a point where you have to pull up your big girl knickers and make the best of what you’ve got. Alex did none of this, and while I could forgive some of her behavior, the sum total left me with nothing but disgust for her character.

Not only that, I found myself far more interested in the burgeoning relationship between James and Madeline, as well as that of Dom and the lovely young Susan. This was most unfortunate for me since, despite the many pages dedicated to these side romances, none of them got a happy ending. Practically everyone in the book ended up miserable, as did this reader at having wasted all that time on a disappointing tale.

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1.5/5 Stars