Her Only Desire - Gaelen Foley I've been on a delightful Gaelen Foley binge for the last couple of weeks, but it seems the time has come for a break. Nothing about Her Only Desire particularly offended me, but my spirit animal still managed to grow increasingly bitchy with every page of text. After a book's worth of screeching and clawing at my brain, I decided that both of us - my inner spirit animal and I - need a break.

So let me preface this review by boldly stating: I like Gaelen Foley's books! But this book was maybe / kind of a little stupid. At times. AT TIMES. Realize that I don't mean "stupid" like a bratty teenager saying, "Waking up early in the morning is SO STUPID." I just mean that some of the actions taken in the text are stupid, therefore permeating the entire book with more stupidness.

Why the hell am I qualifying this? Moving on ...

Ian Prescott, Marquess of Griffith, arrives in India as a diplomat for the British government. He's been called away from his vacation in Ceylon to prevent war, but of course that all gets mucked up when he comes across Miss Georgiana Knight, a willful daughter of Ian's family friend from India's British ruling class. Something of an 18th century feminist, Georgie takes it upon herself to judge Ian's intentions for dealing with the land she calls home. Naturally, she does this by not listening to a word the poor man says even though he's a skilled diplomat who has prevented war many times before and taking serious international matters into her own inexperienced hands. Georgie's reckless behavior ends up getting the entire Knight family in big trouble, so she's shipped to England where there's nothing else to do but explore her budding flirtation with Ian. But Ian has secrets that can apparently steamroll their romance even faster than Georgie can cause a war. Will they grow to trust each other in the spirit of true love, or will these two crazy people screw their lives up forever?

Foley's always dependable to provide some murderous intrigue to the plot. In this case, a jealous and spiteful maharani plots to have her husband the maharaja killed. When Georgie fucks up all her plans, she sends an assassin back to England to take out revenge on Ian and troops after the Knight family to kill them. Sadly, this fun-filled vengeance plot ends way too soon for my taste, but I'll give it credit for existing in the first place.

Georgie actually gets smarter as the story progresses. Most heroines get dumber as the plot thickens, but not Georgie. She takes responsibility for her silly actions and doesn't tolerate much of Ian's bullshit. Her wild sense of independence is honed into a reasoned sense of self-preservation, and she managed to become my favorite character after starting off as one of the worst characters EVER. Hats off to you, Foley, for creating a nuanced and well-developed female protagonist.

Georgie's Modern Sensibilities: It's very nice that she believes in female autonomy and resents the way that women are basically owned by men in her society. But there's one itty-bitty problem with her line of thought: IT DIDN'T EXIST IN THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY. Georgie's feminist philosophy of "I don't want to marry a man because then he'll OWN me and tell me what to do" wasn't a thing at this point in history. I wish that history told a different story, but it doesn't. There's no way a young woman of Georgie's social class could live basically unchaperoned in India while her brothers traveled with the military and her father went to sea. There's no way these brothers would allow her to show up and stay unannounced at a MAHARAJA'S PALACE at the freaking brink of war. There's also no way that a cultured gentleman like Ian would easily forgive the little idiot for interfering with his negotiations by illegally breaking into the maharani's private quarters to gather information - even though she has no experience as a spy - and getting caught red-handed. That's just too much stupid for people of that time to tolerate. Georgie's lucky they didn't lock her up somewhere.

And then there's the way that Georgie treated her asthma with modern yoga.


In addition, she's studied the Kama Sutra cover-to-cover.


Oh, yes, Georgie, you're just SO OPPRESSED by men that you have to bitch about it constantly. But somehow, you're the ONE LUCKY woman in the world to have a dad and brothers who don't give a shit what you do or read. I'm buying it. I really am!

Just kidding!

Ian's Late Season Wangst: Up until the book's midway mark, Ian seems rational and normal, give or take a little of the tortured soul stuff all these heroes are contractually obligated to carry around like so much baggage. But holy shit, when they get to England, Ian's wangst explodes all over the place! You know it's going to be bad when the least of his wangst has to do with the 5-year-old son he neglects to tell Georgie about until she runs into the kid on her own. There's some scuttle-buttle about Ian's disastrous marriage that he keeps all bottled up because he's afraid Georgie will hate him. By the time the big secret is revealed at the end of the book, I already knew it wasn't a big deal. These secrets are never big deals. So the secret ends up not being a big deal, and VOILA, HAPPILY EVER AFTER! I think this is my greatest complaint about the book. Why drag out all of the wangst about something pointless for close to 100 pages when the plot dealing with the bitchy maharani easily could have been extended until the end of the book? Ian's wangst and BIG DARK SECRET were not enough to carry a book. The nonsense ultimately doomed this book to a tentative 3 stars.