Series: Love's Grace #2
Format: ebook via Netgalley
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Forever (September 24, 2013)
A Heart of Gold
Socialite Margaret Vaughn is the wealthiest heiress in London—or so everybody thinks. Saddled with debt left by her father, she agrees to marry a rich man who can save her family's estate. But when her fiancé turns out to be just another poor social climber, Margaret faces financial ruin—and social humiliation. Just when she thinks all is lost, she finds an unlikely angel in Tom Poole . . .
After amassing a fortune in the gold fields of Australia and surviving a harrowing shipwreck, Tom Poole is the toast of London society. Yet despite his newfound fame, he's never forgotten his own humble beginnings. When he learns of Margaret's plight, he offers her financial assistance—but his interest is not strictly business. Taken with her beauty and grace, the rugged adventurer wants nothing more than to win Margaret's heart. But can he convince the proper, refined lady that, despite their social differences, they are a match made in heaven?
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This book tells the story of Tom Poole and Margaret Vaughn, two people who could not have come from more different worlds. Tom is a self-made man, having ventured to Australia and earned his fortune in a gold mine. Margaret Vaughn is a noble woman of good breeding who is determined to keep her independence--and the family estate that was left to her, upon her father's death.
Tom is enchanted by the proud woman he meets, but Margaret has a secret: her father died with a massive amount of debt, and if she doesn't produce payment soon, there will be trouble for her. She'd planned on marrying Paul Denault in order to secure the means necessary to keep her family's estate firmly in hand, but as with everyone else, Paul, too, has secrets, and the engagement is soon ended.
Enter Tom, a man of low birth. But it's amazing what a certain amount of wealth will do, and once he learns of Margaret's plight, Tom offers to marry her. Barring that, he will loan her the money, until she has the means to pay him back. The ensuing struggle between Margaret's desire for her independence and her need to keep her family's estate, combined with Tom's single-minded obsession with making her his wife, encompasses the remainder of the book (among other little twists and turns, including family secrets, a duel, and blackmail).
This book bored me. The first 40% of it was like trudging up a near vertical incline. The characters didn't interest me--much of Tom's character was wrapped up in his admiration and obsession with Margaret, and Margaret's pride was irritating on more than one occasion (admirable, I'll grant you, but when I was already struggling with waiting for something to happen in the story, the little stubborn heel-dragging moments grated on me).
There were also frequent mentions of God; it wasn't until about a third of the way through the book that it clicked for me that this was meant to be a Christian romance. Tom Poole spent a lot of time praying to God for guidance, and encouraging Margaret to do the same, whenever she felt lost. The fact that I wasn't expecting it made each mention stand out more, and the conspicuousness of it made it hard for me to accept it as part of the text.
Eventually the pace did pick up some, but ultimately I finished this book feeling no particular connection with any of the characters, which meant I wasn't rooting for their happily ever after. The plot felt, in places, too thin, and in others too jumbled, so everything felt uneven. In the end I just wasn't overly impressed.