It Takes Two to Tangle by Theresa Romain
Publication date: September 3, 2013
Series: The Matchmaker Trilogy #1
Henry Middlebrook came back from the Napoleonic Wars a lost soul. The loss of right hand left him unable to paint – a heavy blow to his artistic aspirations – whilst he struggled to regain mannerisms necessary to rejoin society. Partially due to encouragement from his brother and sister-in-law, and partially because he sought a new vantage from which to gain solace and happiness, Henry decides to find a wife, and his eyes land on Lady Caroline Stratton, the reigning beauty of the ton. However, Caroline is an accomplished flirt, and to pursue her, Henry employed a new strategy – that of engaging the help of France Whittier, Caroline’s cousin and companion.
Frances is not a stranger to wounded soldiers. Her late husband had died during the war, leaving an emotional secret with Frances, together with unanswered questions. Frances is a woman of dry wit and intelligence; she is content with her role yet privately yearns for love and passion. She is internally and externally perceptive, but armed with boundless compassion and sensitivity that endears her to Henry, and the readers.
Henry is an interesting character as well, though perhaps not as much as Frances. Henry’s determination is his sword and armor in society, life, and in his internal battles. To reconcile with the loss of his arm, he is determined to paint again with his left. To deal with the pitiful looks from society, he is determined to find the right wife and regain his footing.
Reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac, Frances writes letters to Henry through Caroline’s name, giving him not only friendship but confidence, and due to Henry’s disability, he asks Frances to aid him in replying. What started as good intentions quickly turned into a mess, as Frances found herself being both the sender and in part the replier. However, the bigger problem is, Frances is slowly falling in love with Henry through their time together, and he is still fixed on Caroline, believing the letters to have come from her!
My only annoyance is that Henry took too long to notice Frances as a romantic partner, having too firmly established in his mind Caroline as the cornerstone of his reconstruction of his life. Yet, perhaps that is understandable too, for Henry’s fixation on Caroline as his sole beacon of light blinded him to his surroundings, the truth of his secret correspondence, and Frances’s ubiquitous support.
Brilliantly crafted, with riveting characters and Theresa Romain’s usual dash of philosophy, It Takes Two to Tangle creates an engaging introduction to Romain’s Matchmaker Trilogy. Strategies and tactics are brandished not only to win a lady’s affections, but also to gain an insight into one’s counterparts in character and life. Truly, this is a most intelligent and insightful historical romance, coming from Theresa Romain’s unique voice.
*ARC courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley