Book Review

Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas:  A Guest Review by CarrieS

B

Title: Ravishing the Heiress
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Info: Berkeley Sensation July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-425-25087-7
Genre: Historical: European

Ravishing the Heiress Of all literary genres, romance is the most personal.  Readers seem to connect to books less on the basis of writing quality as to how the nature of the characters and their relationship pushes their own emotional buttons. 

Keeping this in mind, Ravishing the Heiress is not my favorite Sherry Thomas novel because the nature of the character's relationship frustrated me.  However, her writing is as lovely and as nuanced as ever and the portrayal of a slowly growing friendship that comes from a shared life is beautifully done.

When young heiress Millie meets Lord Fitzhugh, she falls madly in love at first sight.  This should be convenient, because their families have arranged for them to marry – he desperately needs her money, and her family needs his title.  Unfortunately for our leads, Fitzhugh is already in love with the relatively penniless Isabelle.  The marriage breaks everyone's hearts as Fitzhugh is devastated by the loss of his true love, and Millie, realizing that he loves someone else, is determined not to let Fitz know that she loves him.  They agree to spend eight years without consummating the marriage – during which time they develop a deep friendship even as Millie continues to hide her love for Fitz and Fitz continues to pine for Isabelle.

I appreciated the slow, quiet, contemplative nature of the romance.  It was refreshing to see a relationship in which growth happens over the normal events of a marriage – loss of parents, home remodeling, growing a business.  The only problem is that since there are no external obstacles to Millie and Fitz's relationship, they have only themselves to blame for their sorrows. 

Millie and Fitz are both almost perfect people, allotted one flaw each.  Millie is compassionate, tough, shrewd, and honorable, but she allows her sense of pride to turn her into a doormat.  I could not believe that she would stay silent for so long about her feelings, to the point of openly discussing Fitz's affairs, which she sanctions, with him.  Fitz is also kind, compassionate, and honorable, as well as loyal and appreciative.  His flaw is cluelessness – he can't see how Millie feels for him or how he feels for Millie because he is trapped in wishes for the past.  Their situation is supposed to be tragic but I just wanted to slap them a lot.  After slapping them, I'd love to drink tea with them – they seem like very nice people.  But some slapping is definitely in order.

Isabelle is a side character and she has her own story coming up in the anthology Midnight Scandals, ( A | BN | K | S) coming out in August 2012.  I'm curious about her story, since I found her behavior and her character's resolution to be unrealistic but I can't elaborate without spoiling stuff.  The final book in the trilogy, Tempting the Bride ( A | BN | K | S), will be out in October.

I suspect that everyone who reads the Fitzhugh trilogy will have a favorite book of the three.  So far, I've enjoyed the lush and brainy Beguiling the Beauty ( A | BN | K | S) more than the quite, reflective Ravishing the Heiress, but both were beautifully written.  I can't wait for the third book and I'm interested to see which of the books people like the most, and why.


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    I enjoyed this novel very much, though I agree about the flaws. Part of what I enjoyed was the author’s craft, how she used the timelines to jump back and forth and show the reader how the relationship grew into what it was at the end.  And while I agree that Millie’s pride got in the way, I couldn’t hold that against her. She wasn’t beautiful, or from Fitz’s class, and her self-esteem was a very real issue.  By the end of the book I was ready to punch Fitz in the nose, but thankfully, he saw the light.

    It reminded me a lot of Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract, but with an ending more satisfactory to most romance readers.

  2. 2
    riwally says:

    I bought this book the very first day with great anticipation and ended up somewhat letdown while reading it.  I also thought Millie somewhat of a ditz when it came to Fitz’s indescretions.  What wife does that?  I realize that it was all her idea to postpone consummation, but WTF?  He was obviously rather open in his liasons as Millie knew of them even to the point she knew when he was on the prowl.  Millie didn’t seem to have any trouble voicing her opinion about almost everything except for Fitz’s loose morals.  She should have had more backbone.  A good book, well written, but disappointing characters.  That said, I will continue to read everything Sherry Thomas writes and I can’t wait for her next book.

  3. 3

    The review here brings to mind Heyer’s A Civil Marriage, which is one of my absolute favorite of hers. I love that book so much, I want to read Thomas’s just to compare.

  4. 4
    Corvidchild says:

    While I was in Canada I checked out A Civil Contract and read everything but the last 30 pages because my taxi to the airport showed up before I could finish. I haven’t found any copies where I live and it’s driving me nuts! Was there a cute ‘I’ve secretly always loved you’ scene? Can someone give me the sparknotes version? I’ve even tried google books which has every third page of the end. It didn’t satisfy.

  5. 5

    You really should find a copy and read it—even if you are asking for a spoiler, I just can’t do it.

  6. 6
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    This also reminded me of A Civil Contract, which was my favorite Heyer for reasons entirely unrelated to my usual adoration of her books. I must now read this book for comparison.

  7. 7

    I actually enjoyed Ravishing the Heiress more than Beguiling the Beauty. In fact I’d give this book an A- because it delivered a powerful emotional read for me. I think the lack of external obstacles heightened the tension because everything centered around the internal conflict without the distraction of a kidnapping, duel, or war which seems to exist in almost every historical novel.

    Sherry Thomas is an auto read for me and I’m already impatiently waiting for her next release.

  8. 8
    Bnbsrose says:

    It’s on the top of the tbr pile for after the July Memorial Read. Thank you for not telling me anything I hadn’t figured out from the first book – namely that I’d spend a goodly portion of the book with my hand poised for a good slap, but love it anyway.

  9. 9
    BethSmash says:

    Was anyone else disappointed in the abruptness of the ending?  I wish there had been more of them together at the ending, instead of two people traveling parallel – and then, oh, I guess I DO love you.  End of book.  I also felt that the parts with the other sister in law (who’s book comes out this fall) were a little bit jarring.  Even though it was completely consistent in style, as the first book had these little instances too.

  10. 10
    SAO says:

    Did I get this right? She refuses to sleep with her husband and then she criticizes him for not being content to live in joyfully wedded celibacy? And the book didn’t get a D? Or did I miss something?

  11. 11
    Big Reader says:

    You missed something.  It’s not like that at all. 

  12. 12
    CarrieS says:

    No, that’s not it – they make a mutual decision to be celibate for a specific period of time with the understanding that they are both free to conduct affairs.  She doesn’t have any affairs but she is not critical of his.

  13. 13
    Kerith says:

    Ummm YEAH!!! I really really liked this book, and the slow growing friendship between Fitz and Millie. I really liked them. But after what they went through to get to their HEA, I would have liked to see more of it. I didn’t need a huge groveling scene at the end, but a little compassion for the woman you now love, and what she went through these past eight years.  Maybe he doesn’t need to say sorry for sleeping with all those women but at least understand that she was heart broken watching Fitz do it, and let her know that she is the last women he wants to every sleep with. And maybe a little sorry for hurting her, even if it was unintentional. I need a scene of him flirting with Millie at a party in front of everyone, or refuse to sleep alone and move into Millie’s bedroom. I just needed a little more; 30 pages would have been ideal. :-)

    Though I have criticizes this book, I still really love Sherry Thomas and I would give it a B.

  14. 14
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    I so much despise infidelity that I would never read this book. I don’t care how well-written it is, I would be unable to get past the first hint of one of them sleeping with someone else and I would throw the book against the wall! That is, if I didn’t get too disgusted by the constant “I want Isabelle instead of you” first.

  15. 15
    Holly says:

    I agree, it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea either.  I was intrigued by the Millie and Fitz in Beguiling the Beauty (which was a DNF for me – I skipped to the end) and was looking forward to this book, but I’m going to pass.  Infidelity – emotional or physical – ruins a romance novel for me.

  16. 16
    Holly says:

    *Millie, not the Millie.  I think I started to write the relationship between and changed my mind.

    I am glad I read this review because it’s convinced me not to read the book. 

  17. 17

    Just wanted to add…l hate infidelity in romance novels, too. However there wasn’t a single moment while reading this book that it became a roadblock to my enjoyment. The set up and execution by Thomas made it a non-issue for me. Frankly it didn’t feel like a betrayal because the marriage was an arranged one and both parties agreed that they didn’t want to enter a true partnership with someone they barely knew. They don’t fall into bed and instant love on their wedding night but develop a lasting friendship over the course of eight years, which eventually leads to love. 

  18. 18
    CarrieS says:

    The problem for me wasn’t the infidelity per se – it didn’t feel like infidelity in the classic sense, because the couple had made a mutual arrangement to have an open marriage and there was no sneaking or lying involved.  I was frustrated by Millie’s determination not to tell Fritz how she felt and by the persistence of Fritz’s cluelessness but I didn’t feel that there was any betrayal going on, as would normally be present in an infidelity story.  Fritz is loyal to their marriage under the terms they agree on – he treats her with warmth respect, he insists that her standing as his wife be respected.  If the fact that he sleeps with other women during his marriage is your only objection, then I would say that this is a unique case where that needn’t stop you from enjoying the book.

  19. 19
    JaneDrew says:

    Isn’t part of the issue that she’s also _very_ young when they get married?

  20. 20
    Robin Rotham says:

    Okay, I loved Beguiling the Beauty, but this one gutted me and then didn’t come close to refilling me, much less fill me to bursting with satisfaction the way I expect a really good romance to do. Since I read it a few nights ago, I’ve spent WAY too much time trying to pinpoint exactly why it left me feeling so hollow. 

    **SPOILERS**

    In my opinion, all the flipping back and forth in time disguises an overriding flaw in the story: I think the way both Millie and Fitz act when Isabelle returns is out of character for the adults they’ve become over the last eight years, honorable adults who respect and care about each other, are attracted to each other, and have built a satisfying life together.

    When Fitz proposes to get an heir on Millie and then leave her to live in sin with Isabelle and her children by another man, all we’ve been introduced to is Fitz as he was at nineteen—devastated at having to give up his love and marry a girl he doesn’t know or care about—and Millie as she was at sixteen—powerless and resigned to do her duty to her father. So even though eight years have passed and they’ve both changed a lot, we haven’t experienced it yet and we grudgingly accept that Fitz is still hurt and angry enough to propose something so assholish, and that Millie still thinks little enough of herself that she’d submit to something so unbearably painful.

    In the end, we get too little emotional payoff for all that unnecessary angst. Rather than building to a satisfying climax, the whole book is one long black moment that fades into a too-short, bloodless resolution. Pretty much exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for in a romance.

    That doesn’t mean I’m not waiting anxiously for the next one, though. :)

  21. 21
    Kerith says:

    @CarrieS and Rita

    **SPOILERS**

    I think Fitz’s infidelity would have been easier to take if we got to see the change in their marriage, now that it is a TRUE marriage and that they both know they love each other. They still live in the same house, with the same servants that all know that they weren’t sleeping together. Are they going to same party were the women know that Fitz used to be up for business even though he was married, still think he is, (he is still with the SAME woman as before)? And when Millie can’t perform her wifely duty (future pregnancies, going to visit places without him), does Fitz feel free to go elsewhere to have an affair? What changed besides them now sleeping together. Granted he did tell Isabelle he could not be her lover, but is he going to tell that to all the other women in London? He thought he was in love with Isabelle and he still slept with all those women. He always treated his wife with respect and caring, so now what really has changed?  I just wish I saw it. And what would have happened if in the future their company fails and they can not live in the house they built together, is he still going to be in love with her (he is just as much in love with the house as with her)?  I didn’t need grovel from Fitz, just a better picture of their future together.

    I feel like you have go on a little bit of faith to really see their HEA.  Still can’t wait for Tempting the Bride.

  22. 22

    I absolutely agree that the ending could have been enhanced, providing readers with a sweeter payoff. That being said, I didn’t walk away with any concerns that fidelity would be an issue for Fritz in the future. By the final page I felt he had matured to the point that he clearly understood a meaningless fling would not only be pointless but it would also be a violation of his love for Millie – thus hurting not only her but also himself.

  23. 23
    Ladyroy says:

    I thought this book wasn’t going to work for me at all, but somehow, in spite of the somewhat abrupt ending, it did. It could have hit too close to home in a really bad way, but instead, it just felt real. Eight years of friendly, celibate marriage aside, this was my story. The issues Fitz had with not hurting either Isabelle or Millie were the same issues my husband had. The doormat/meets pride/“I can’t be overly emotional about this” Millie had going, veeeeery familiar to me. Her decision to pull away, rather than risk hurting more. Spot on, in my experience. Could Millie have been more up front about things? Sure, but I don’t think that was in her character. Her pulling away is probably what saved her in the end…and it worked in my life too. It’s a great way to make someone sit up and realize that without the marriage, you lose the friendship too.
    In the end, the realizations Fitz had about what Isabelle really wanted from him were enough to make me believe his decision wasn’t flighty, even if the story did end suddenly.
    The least believable part was actually Isabelle’s quiet, tearful acceptance of the situation. The character she’d been through the rest of the book was edgier than that. I was expecting more resistance. I understand not wanting to make her such a shrew that she isn’t someone about whom we want to read in her own story, but I still expected more anger.

  24. 24
    Nicci August says:

    I wasn’t certain this book would work for me, but it did.  The ending could (and perhaps should) have more fully addressed Millie and Fitz’s post-Isabelle relationship, but it was clear that Fitz had grown up and committed to Millie, and that Millie was no longer willing to sanction his infidelities.  However, that said, I do agree with the other commenter that the book’s major failing is with Isabelle’s reaction to Fitz’s decision to remain with Millie.

    **Spoilers ahead**

    As written, I feel Isabelle was too self-entitled to meekly accept Fitz’ decision. This was a woman who had publicly attempted to usurp Millie’s place when meeting Venetia at the train station, who made snide comments about Millie to Fitz, and who had fully expected Fitz to abandon his wife and his career to move in with her, yet all we get is Isabelle shedding a few tears and then wishing Fitz well?  I didn’t believe that reaction.  Perhaps Thomas was attempting to show us that Isabelle loved Fitz just as much as Millie, and that’s why she would quietly let him go, but I never quite bought it.

  25. 25
    BethSmash says:

    We’re getting Isabelle’s story soon, so that should help clear up the confusion, at least I hope it will.  I got the sense that Isabelle wanted, much like Fitz did at first, to capture her past.  BUT, I also think she was aware, by Fitz’ lack of excitement and cooperation, that it wasn’t going to happen.  I saw her attempts at usurping Millie’s place as desperate, last ditch efforts.  I think she saw it coming, and knew things could never be, and that’s why she gave him up so easily.  AND, maybe she met someone during her first trip to Scotland that made her feel something and that’s one of the reasons she fled back to London so quickly.  I do believe that I read somewhere that the novella her story is will be set in Scotland.  So… pure conjecture on my part, but I could TOTALLY see it happening.

  26. 26
    Kim says:

    I really enjoyed this book. I agree with the others that since Fitz and Millie had an open marriage, Fitz can’t really be accused of infidelity. I also thought that his realization that he loved Millie and the life they have together precludes him from being unfaithful in the future. The scenes showing their growing friendship were beautifully written. I also thought that Isabelle felt safe in the relationship with Fitz, but perhaps it was no longer love.

    I’ve read that Sherry Thomas is working on 2 novellas: As mentioned above, the first one is Isabelle’s story and is due in August. However, the second novella will be a story-within-a-story and is based on the book that Hastings is writing for Helena.

  27. 27
    LJmysticowl says:

    Picked this up on the strength of this review and, for the most part, enjoyed it very much. I prefer romances in which the couple is aready married at the start. Like the review promised, I found the two very likeable. Isabelle as a “villain” was a little too cartoonishly so for my tastes, I would’ve preferred her more sympathetic, both for the sake of this book and her own follow-up story, but it wasn’t too bad in the end.

    Only two things I didn’t like:
    1. The space devoted to the next book’s couple – the hero’s sister and best friend. I didn’t want to read about them, I wanted to read about the couple in this book.

    2. The author’s use of an incorrect Russian word. I really would prefer authors would either stick to languages they themselves speak perfectly or only use foreign phrases when they have a native speaker to vet them. Specifically, the author called Russian nestling dolls – “Russian babushka dolls.” The dolls are actually called matryoshkas, “babushka” is a completely different word. In Russian, they’re not even pronounced similarly. There was no reason for the author to not simply say “nesting dolls” instead. I had to take a five-minute break for an internal rant and I hate to be interrupted when reading.

  28. 28
    Nabpaw says:

    i inhaled this book in less than a day.  I loved it even though the ending was too abrupt, the celibacy agreement lasted too long and the behavior of both principals was at times slapworthy.  I also thought it was better than Beguiling the Beauty.  The heroine in that book displayed some seriously TSTL behaviour (I still really enjoyed it though)…

  29. 29
    mia says:

    I agree with most of what was said here, it was a sweet story that ended too fast and had moments of WTF? The worst for me was when they were having breakfast and discussing his latest mistress and SHE suggests who his next one should be…That was too much for me. :(  I can’t wait to read Helena’s story and I’m sure there will be a few more pages of Fitz and Millie’s story.  As for Isabelle, I don’t think I’ll read her story since my twisted little mind sent her off to hang out with Miss Havisham.  Now I’m off to read something gothic, maybe some Victoria Holt?

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