I read this book because the controversy surrounding it, plus Clayton Westmoreland's ubiquitous appearance on any "A-hole Heroes" list/discussion, had me curious just what was between the covers. What I found was a mixed bag. The two scenes that seem to provoke the most debate are the ones with the riding crop and, later on, Clayton's rape of Whitney. The former was a little OTT, I'll grant, and the short-lived rape wasn't all that remarkable either. In fact, it irritated me no end later on when a detail of it was used to prolong yet another "misunderstanding" between the hero and heroine. In fact, that was what peeved me most about the story. It was about 100 pages too long, with the end marred by a "Oh, Good Gawd!" regression of Clayton to "Jumping To Conclusions Redux," in essence re-traveling ground that consumed at least a hundred pages earlier on because of a similar misunderstanding. Clayton eventually works it all out, and Whitney has her own endless pages of second-guessing and puzzling over behavior and evidence so that we get the HEA. It was ponderous and I started to skim out of boredom.
The overwhelming strength of the book is the evocative style of the period. It's all a very clear and crisp mental picture, and made it easy for me to get absorbed. This Jane Austen era isn't my favorite, unless there's a significant military presence in the story (either in the plot or one of the characters). The sprawling and messy cast sometimes dragged it down (especially Stephen and Lady Westmoreland - they could have gotten the boot and I wouldn't have cared).
I guess I couldn't check my brain at the door, because the illogic of Whitney's and Clayton's actions left me scratching my head or shaking my fist at the pages. The final OTT misunderstanding irritated me on this count, because just why would Whitney keep such a dangerous note about fearing she was pregnant? She didn't want to leave it behind for a servant to find, yet it's late fall/early winter in England. There wasn't a fireplace kindled ANYWHERE to take away the damp chill? I started out liking Whitney and feeling sorry for her, but by the tedious end, I was ready for her to fatally clothesline herself while racing her horse through the woods. As for Clayton, he didn't impress me all that much - for good or bad. While McNaught was A+ at describing the scenes and surroundings, when it came to her hero, there wasn't much to go on. I had no sense of who he was - just disembodied gray eyes with long legs and a drawl. Those three characteristics were repeated ad nauseum, so it pretty much overwhelmed all else about him.
I'm glad I read it to see what all the fuss was about, and I like McNaught's style, but I'm hoping that her heroes and heroines are far better in later books.
I really wanted to enjoy this book. I tore through it at a ravenous pace, which is more to say for most books I've read recently. I was in love with the hero. I thought the heroine had pluck and spirit. Unfortunately, after the third large misunderstanding between this couple, I just couldn't stand it anymore. I was hoping that they would learn how to communicate, since they seemed very much in love, and yet, they fell back on the same 'bad habits' that they both had at the beginning of the book. Overall, this was an entertaining read of a love that survives against all odds. The story was well written, the dialogue was not forced, the story line was initially believable, it had many great points; it just had a few too many negative ones as well. Not a favorite, but not the worst romance novel I've ever read, either.
Squueee!!! What a FABULOUS book! This by far makes up for a couple stinkers I've read lately. Ms. Judith McNaught isn't the queen of alpha males for nothing. She could write my heros anyday. Sigh.....
Whitney was a glorious example of what a romance novel is supposed to be all about. Gave me a bit of a flash back to Woodiwiss' earlier works and reminded me why I pick up this genre in the first place.
But seriously, loved it. Well written, excellent character development, just the right amount of perfection/flaws in the lead characters. And a great HEA!