This review was originally posted on amazon on August 13, 2012:
What happens when inalterably headstrong falls in love with unrequitedly stubborn.
This was a sad book. That I really liked anyway.
When the book opens, in 1893, Gigi has just asked her husband, Camden, for a divorce. The two spouses haven't seen one another more than three times in the decade since they married. He lives in America, she resides in England. They are cordially estranged.
Private Arrangements flips between 1883, the past, and 1893, the present. The story truly begins when Camden and Gigi meet in 1883 shortly after her fiancé, the Duke of Tremaine, has unexpectedly died a mere two weeks before he was scheduled to wed her. Gigi is extraordinarily wealthy, with a tinge of common to her cash. Camden is extraordinarily well-bred, with a tinge of royalty to his pedigree. Attraction blossoms within moments of their meeting.
Gigi is a girl after my own heart. She is unabashedly wealthy and determined to make a good marriage. Her mother wants her to catch a duke, and she decided that the best way to accomplish this was not by charming him into a wedding. Rather, she bought up all of his debts prior to his death and blackmailed him into proposing. After he dies, she informs Camden, his heir and the new duke, that she will call those debts should he decline to take the place of her erstwhile, deceased, fiance. Camden declines, politely, because he has made a promise to one Theodora von Schweppenburg, a penniless singer.
Gigi is not the sort of girl who would let a little thing like a promise to the insipid Miss Schweppenburg stand in the way of something she wants, so she engages in a bit of light deception in an effort to persuade Camden to marry her. To her surprise, and dismay, she not only feels bad about the deception, she falls in love him. Deeply, devastatingly, irrevocably in love with him.
And, he falls equally in love with her. When he learns of her deception, shortly before the wedding, he plots an exquisite revenge. They would have one passionate night - their wedding night - and he would decamp from her side permanently.
What I loved about this book:
Ultimately, this is a book about second chances and maturity.
I loved Gigi. She was unapologetically lively and intelligent, with a passion for life. She loves her husband, but accepted that she had lost him through her own bad behavior, and accepted complete responsibility for her part in the schism. She didn't however, allow his repudiation of her to destroy her. She developed a full life for herself, using her financial solvency to benefit other young women who made poor choices in their youth. She has grown up considerably, and tries very hard not to make the same mistake twice. In her zeal to avoid the mistakes of her youth, she very nearly makes an altogether new one.
I also loved the secondary romance between Gigi's mother and her neighbor. Oftentimes in these regency romances, the mother figure is a combination of ridiculous and irritating. The character development seems to frequently stop right where Jane Austen left it with Mrs. Bennett. Gigi's mom was, of course, an ambitious mama, but she was also bright and intellectual. A bit of a bluestocking, really. And the mature romance was lovely to behold.
I'm conflicted about Camden. He wasn't the kind of hero I was expecting, but he was the kind of hero that Gigi needed. His stubborness was a vice, though, and not a virtue, and it is because of his inflexibility that both he and Gigi were deprived of a full decade of happiness. There was a poignancy to their HEA because it was delayed well beyond the time that the separation made sense.
Overall, this was a really good historical romance read. It was engaging and beautifully written, with an appealing heroine and a likeable hero.