Prudence Wemberly has no idea how she was drawn in by a rake who compromised her and then refused to marry her. Afterward, Pru's stern magistrate father threatened to throw her out of the house if anything like that ever happened again. Thinking there had been some horrible misunderstanding with her suitor, she went to him to set things straight, only to have him compromise her even further. Fearing her father's wrath, she decides to take matters into her own hands. If she's going to be ruined, she might as well be well and truly ruined, so she decides to seek guidance on becoming a courtesan from the most famous one in London. It seemed like a good idea at the time, at least after three glasses of sherry, but once at the brothel, she isn't certain if she can go through with it.
Charles Hatterly is an ornithologist who just wants to be left alone to study birds. Unfortunately, as the oldest son, he's expected to marry, so he reluctantly submits himself to the tortures of the marriage mart to keep his father happy. The bubbled-headed young ladies he meets at balls and parties though, don't interest him in the least, so he's been putting off the inevitable need for a wife until he meets Prudence at the brothel. He finds her to be a delightful companion and her predicament stirs his gentlemanly instincts. To solve both their problems, he offers a marriage of convenience, but what's a man to do when he finds himself so utterly charmed by his new wife that he just might be falling in love with her.
Compromising Prudence is a delightful Regency romance novella that was fun, witty, charming, and truly romantic. It is very rare that an author can convince me of two characters love and rightness for one another in such a short story and more importantly a short time frame, but that's exactly what Marguerite Butler accomplished in this little novella. Some authors fail to do this in a full-length novel, and for those, my advice would be to take a lesson from this very talented writer. Normally, love at first sight doesn't work well for me either, but somehow, she made me believe that this couple were perfectly matched even though they'd only known each other for a few days.
Charles is positively adorable. A classic geek in every sense of the word, he's a man of science (ornithology to be exact) who often closets himself in his study for hours at a time. He hates having to present himself to the marriage mart and feels it's a total waste of his time, but every year, he does so to keep his father happy. As the oldest son, he knows he's expected to marry soon, but the young ladies he meets at the balls and parties he must attend bore him to tears. He just wants a biddable wife who'll leave him to his studies.
Prudence is a spirited young woman who unwittingly fell victim to the charms of a ne'er-do-well who compromised her and then refused to marry her. Her extremely strict and conservative magistrate father has threatened to put her out on the streets if anything else scandalous occurs, so when her suitor compromises her even further, Prudence figures she might as well truly ruin herself by going to the most famous courtesan in London.
It's abundantly obvious from the moment Charles and Prudence meet that they are meant for each other. Charles offers Pru a marriage of convenience, and since she has few other options, Pru accepts. The two get along so famously and understand one another so well, it's not surprising that they fall in love hard and fast. Prudence comes across as very sweet and maybe just a touch naïve, but at the same time is a very passionate woman underneath. I thought it was very cute how she was fascinated by the lingerie at the modiste's shop and wanted a "real" wedding night while Charles was trying to do the noble thing in spite of desiring her very much. Charles is a sweet beta hero who treats Pru with the utmost kindness and respect in spite of finding her in a brothel, yet underneath, he can be a bit jealous and very protective of his wife-to-be. Even though this is a sweet romance with no explicit content, there is some fairly high sexual tension and tender sensuality shared between these star-crossed lovers. I like that Charles wasn't particularly experienced in the bedroom, but was simultaneously a little disappointed that Pru didn't get to model her negligee for him, especially after so much was made of it. This was a very minor thing though, that didn't really detract from my overall enjoyment of this novella.
Compromising Prudence is the first book in The Mad Hatterlys series. Charles' outgoing, rakish twin, Graham, who becomes the hero of the second book, Becoming Mr. Brooking, is introduced, along with a second brother, Henry, another scientist who has a penchant for blowing things up. He becomes the hero of the fourth story, Rescuing Lady Rose, which happens to be a full-length novel. Charles' hoydenish, tom-boy of a sister, Frances, is mentioned in the background, because Charles wants Pru to give her lessons in lady-like deportment for her coming out. She will become the heroine of the third novella, Civilizing Frances.
Overall, I can't begin to express how much I enjoyed Compromising Prudence. It was a pure pleasure to read. The only thing that could have made it better is if it was longer, but it was still a satisfying, self-contained story despite its brevity. Finally, I've found another new author who knows how to write romance that it actually romantic. I'll definitely be looking forward to picking up the remaining books in the series and checking out Ms. Butler's other work.
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