Clarissa Feeney has spent her entire life trying to be a respectable lady and live down her unfortunate illegitimate birth to a mother who is a notorious courtesan. With the passing of both the headmistress of the girl's boarding school where she attends, and her father who had financed her education there, Clarissa finds herself the prisoner of the woman she has been trying to avoid. When her opportunistic mother "sells" her to a man to whom she owes a large debt, Clarissa hopes to escape and find gainful employment as a governess or nursemaid, but without references, her prospect of finding a respectable position are slim.
When Clarissa's mother proposes that Trevor Whitlatch accept her daughter as payment for her debt, he is rather horrified by the thought. However, Trevor has always had a weakness for a pretty face, and Clarissa is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He decides to take Clarissa with him in hopes of making her his mistress. When he discovers that she is a gently bred lady, he tries half-heartedly to find her the type of position that she wishes, but still plans to do whatever it takes to make the lovely Clarissa his. Much to his chagrin though, Clarissa will have nothing to do with his repeated offers to be his mistress. She wants much more from him than a mere dalliance, but will Trevor discover the love in his heart for her before it's too late?
Fair Game has been on my "To-Read" list for quite some time, but now that I've finally read it, I'm sorry to say that it probably could have stayed there a while longer without me missing much. I'm just not a fan of the hero and heroine waiting until the final pages of the book to declare their love for one another, especially when there are very few truly romantic moments while waiting to get there. The author's writing style was also not very conducive to me being able to connect with the characters on a deep emotional level and really understand the motivations for their actions. I felt like the story was being told to me from a distance more than being shown their feelings. I simply spent most of the story with very little sense of the hero and heroine falling in love with one another. I thought the dialog could sometimes be rather verbose, and wasn't nearly as sharp and witty as I usually expect from a Traditional Regency. The narrative also dragged at times, with mundane things occasionally going on for pages at a time with very little advancement of the plot taking place.
I was pretty disappointed in Trevor as the hero. Until the last few pages of the story, I didn't feel like he had any honorable intentions toward Clarissa at all. I thought perhaps he might when he seemed properly horrified at the notion of taking a human being, namely Clarissa, in payment for her mother's debt to him, but the minute he saw how beautiful she was, he instantly accepted. Now granted he did, for the most part, behave like a gentleman toward her once he realized that she was a gently bred lady and not the light-skirt that her mother was, but he still never even considered offering her marriage until the very end. Up to that point, he was doing everything in his power to convince her to become his mistress. Once Trevor realized he had feelings for Clarissa, I don't understand why he didn't think of proposing. If he had been a titled gentleman, I might have understood his reticence due to the social stigma attached to marrying a lady with Clarissa's background, but he wasn't. Trevor was merely a vicar's son who had earned his fortune through hard work and inheriting his uncle's shipping business, yet he stubbornly clung to the notion of making Clarissa his mistress which didn't make a lot of sense to me. Trevor was on the arrogant side, and in my opinion, didn't have a romantic bone in his body to speak of. In fact, he was completely clueless when it came to courting a lady. He seemed rather impulsive and flippant, not taking anything particularly seriously, including Clarissa's desire to be respectable. Trevor also had a jealous streak and couldn't stand the thought of another man lavishing his attentions on Clarissa, and when the green monster reared its ugly head, he could be rather rude. Yet, still, he refused to give Clarissa the only thing she truly wanted from him. His actions at the end did help to improve my overall opinion of him and the book, but it still took far too long to get there.
Other than not understanding what she saw in Trevor, I did like Clarissa. Her father had carefully closeted her away in a girl's boarding school where she was essentially raised by the headmistress. When that lady and her father both passed away, Clarissa found herself the prisoner of an opportunistic mother who had every intention of selling her virtue to the highest bidder until Trevor came along demanding his due. In spite of such a difficult life and the cards being stacked against her due to her illegitimate birth and her mother's bad reputation, Clarissa had never lost her sense of propriety or her drive to be a respectable lady which was a quality I greatly admired in her. I was definitely cheering her on for sticking to her guns even when Trevor made her a very tempting offer to become his mistress. Clarissa was also a very sweet and even-tempered girl who charmed nearly everyone with whom she came in contact making them more than happy to help her out.
The interesting thing about Fair Game is that the story does really underscore the lack of choices a woman had in those times. Without references or experience, Clarissa had very little hope of gaining respectable employment, and once her mother had turned her over to Trevor, she truly was at his mercy. Even though I never gained much of a liking for him, I suppose it could be said that, at his core, he was a decent man, who treated her well and never tried to force himself on her. Still, I think I had more of a liking for the local vicar's young son, Eustace, in spite of the fact that his immature fawning over Clarissa could be a bit cloying. Overall, Fair Game wasn't a terrible book, but it simply didn't engage my attention or emotions in the way I prefer when reading a romance novel. This was my first read by Diane Farr, and I may give her another try in the future. I just won't be in any hurry to do so.
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