An Unexpected Gentleman - Alissa Johnson 4.5 stars, but because we can't give half stars, 5 stars for purposes of my Goodreads rating.

A delight. What can I say? I just think of things in this story and I think "delightful!" Really really enjoyed this one. REEEEEEEEEEEEALLY enjoyed this one. Outside of some cosmetic flaws (detailed a bit first to get them out of the way), the storytelling, pace, characters, and development were pretty much spot on.

Cosmetic Flaws

Some things irked me right off the bat. Shouldn't "Sir Robert" be a baronet, not a baron? Maybe I'm wrong in my peerage here or maybe they do things differently in Scotland, but I thought barons were "Lord"s and not "Sir"s. Also, there were some typos that were distracting, e.g., "around the weeks" when they meant to say "around the weeds" or, e.g., using the same word twice such as "at that that same time, that same moment." Those sorts of things just made an otherwise very proper and detailed book seem a bit sloppy.

Edit: Also note that the cover dude is dark-haired while Connor is a blond, green-eyed giant.

MOVING ON...

Story

Very generally, the H, Connor Brice, seeks a highly-justified and well-deserved revenge on Sir Robert, the suitor of the h, Adelaide Ward, whose impoverished family circumstances have left her in dire straits. Part of Connor's revenge involves compromising Miss Ward and, ultimately, convincing her that she should choose him over Sir Robert. A brief but insightful and sweet courtship follows, concluding in their marriage about halfway through the book. The remainder of the book explores their married life as they navigate their feelings for each other and as Connor and Adelaide work to resolve their differences over the all-consuming need for revenge that still burns within Connor. I'm not a huge fan of the revenge plot as a trope, but it worked in this one because I thought the romance was so strong that the revenge didn't overpower it or anything. The revenge was, in fact, part of the romance development, and Connor's big gesture in the end really had me choked up.

Characters

Delightful. Connor Brice, a bastard (but well-loved and acknowledged) son of a nobleman, he was forcibly press-ganged at 15 and, since escaping, has lived in America for years building his fortune. He is a hard man bent on revenge. To gain his revenge, he's not above a little manipulation, creative half-truth-telling, or maneuvering, as his deliberate compromising of Adelaide so readily shows us. His hardness makes it all the more melt-worthy when he does unexpectedly romantic and heartfelt things for Adelaide, whom we learn he has had an interest in from afar for quite some time. This unrequited hrmmm..."pining" shall I say? is what made the deliberate compromising palatable to me. He doesn't do it solely for revenge. He does it because he wants Adelaide for himself. He also gives her the opportunity to discover each of Sir Robert's and his natures before she has to make a decision.

Connor is a sweetheart when nobody is looking. He takes note of Adelaide's hobbies and her dreams, and rather than pay them lip service, he makes them happen. He's a man of action, and in this case, actions speak for him since he isn't used to expressing himself with words. He reveals his softer side in surprising ways, from his attention to his conversations with Adelaide to his patient (and somewhat bewildered) interactions with Adelaide's two-year-old nephew.

Adelaide also brings a lot to this story. She's been in charge of her family ever since her wastrel brother landed in debtor's prison, leaving 27-year-old Adelaide to fend for herself, her brother's son, and their 18-year-old sister. With this history, she could easily have sunk into deep levels of annoying stoic, doormat-ish, going-to-the-stake martyrdom, but she doesn't, for which I am eternally grateful. She learns of Sir Robert's true nature and isn't afraid to toss him over. She stands up for herself, both with Sir Robert and later with Connor when his revenge stands in the way of their marriage. Seriously, just when I was about to fuss over Connor's secrets and how hell-bent he was on revenge, Adelaide made her own fuss, and I couldn't have applauded the timing any more. I liked her a lot, and she bears up well against unfortunate circumstances that are not of her own making.

Most of the secondary characters were well done, as well. Connor's "men," who took him in years ago a little while after Sir Robert's betrayal left Connor in America without means, money, or a home, are delightfully (um, sorry, can't help using that word again) curmudgeonly, unpolished, and a bit crass. Adelaide's family are well-drawn with the precocious sister, the sweets-addicted nephew, and the selfish wastrel of a brother. I actually thought the brother was a more fleshed out villain than Sir Robert, the real villain of the piece. The only character that I didn't think was very developed was Sir Robert. He was only sketched out for us in rather cartoon-y "evil villain" terms, but I suppose that may have been necessary to justify Connor's maintaining his need for revenge for the last 15 years.

Romance

Loved the banter. Loved their interactions. LOVED THEIR WITTY DIALOGUE. Loved it. I kept thinking "oh, I should add that as a status update!" but then I got buried back into the book. Jill's review convinced me to try this book out based solely on the "ten times a day" conversation, and I was not disappointed.

A teaser from their wedding night:

"...I was jesting about the ten times."

"Oh." Well, that wasn't too terrible. She didn't care for having been the victim of his jest, but it was a relief to know she'd not be expected to--

"It's not like pulling out a thorn," Connor explained.

Relief vanished. She knew it was too much to hope that he meant it wouldn't hurt. "It's not done quickly, is it?"

His mouth curved. "Not when it's done well."


SQUEEEEEEEEEE. *insert winky face* *nudge nudge*

Note re: Steam Factor

I should note that, with regards to the sexytimes, this book was less steamy and erotic than the historicals that I've been reading lately (e.g., Elizabeth Hoyt or Lisa Kleypas). I'd say the steam level is on a steamier Mary Balogh or less-steamy Julia Quinn level. There are some heated kisses and then, of course, the wedding night, which was quite passionate and lovely. Following the wedding night, there are a couple of alluded or glossed over scenes during their marriage, as well. Personally, it worked very well for me because it seemed in keeping with the tone of the romance and writing, but I just wanted to give people a heads up in terms of expectations.

Overall

The book was really well done. I honestly don't have any quibbles with pretty much any aspects of the book. Aside from the cosmetic things mentioned earlier, there may be a few minor things plot-wise that I might fuss over like how Connor doesn't say the "L" word until the end of the book, but that's in keeping with his character, I feel, and his actions more than led up to that point without his needing to say them. I was wavering between a 4 and a 5, but I think I'll go with that 4.5 boosted to 5. Nowadays, I don't see very many stories where the romance and likable characters take center stage with such delightful results, and this one really does deserve acknowledgement.