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Playing to Win Paperback – September 27, 2011
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Fair Game is thisclose to being a five-star read. Though quite familiar with Regency cant, author Farr does not settle for writing about stock Regency characters - the heroine is the daughter of an infamous courtesan and the hero is the third son of a vicar who made a fortune in shipping and essentially buys the girl to erase her mother's debt. Trevor Whitlatch is no saint - he doesn't take Clarissa Feeney under his protection to "save her;" he plans to set her up as his mistress in the country under his terms. He'll treat her decently and when they're finished with each other, they'll each go on their merry way. The stunningly beautiful Clarissa is a total innocent - born on the wrong side of the blanket to an aristocratic father who "did the right thing" after her birth by ensconcing her in a series of genteel schools - she is forced to leave her most recent home after the headmistress (who was more of a mother to her than her own) who trained her as a teacher dies without leaving a will. With nowhere to turn, she decamps with her mother, only to be treated like a prisoner until she is told to pack her things and go with the gentleman.
Clarissa suspects that Trevor has purchased her, and though he fancies himself a realist, once he spies Clarissa's beauty, he knows he must have her. He believes she is merely a crafty harlot instead of the innocent she is, although it doesn't take all that long for him to realize she's been gently reared. That doesn't change his plan, though; he determines that he shall eventually make her his mistress after he convinces her that without references, she won't be hired as a governess, and that her beauty would dissuade her hire even if she had references.
I've read a number of Regencies wherein the hero decides the heroine shall become his mistress, but these women have most always been widows. Further, I've never read a traditional Regency wherein neither lead character is an aristocrat, even though it's fairly common for a hero to require an aristocratic wife, which is what Trevor believes he needs to move up the social ladder. Not only was this a nice change of pace, but it allowed an informality rarely read in a trad while still maintaining believability.
There is a poignancy that grows and grows in this novel as Trevor and Clarissa get to know one another. Trevor never abandons his goal of making her his mistress - in his mind her being a governess or even the wife of a country vicar wouldn't be as "good" as his giving her carte blanche and then setting her up for life somewhere. And when it looks as though one of her dreams might come true, his behavior becomes irrational - as one would expect of a man in love.
Clarissa blossoms during her time with Trevor; although the two share no more than a couple of kisses, those who love Cabin Romances will enjoy the intimacy and tension between them. Fair Game easily earns four stars; it's different, touching, romantic, and passionate - all accomplished in a traditional format with only kisses (and I'm happy to have now paid for it twice (once in print, now digitally). Wow.
As for Clarissa, I have to admit, her naivete got a bit wearing after awhile. Initially it seemed that she might be interesting, but I'm sorry, and maybe it's the 21st century woman in me speaking, but a man buys you, wants you to become his prostitute, lets you know that you're not good enough for him to marry, and you fall in love with him? Huh? And when she finally does seem to grow some backbone, and says no for the 3rd time, she starts to pine when he goes away and sulks and ignores her.
Yep, disappointing hero and heroine.
But it won't stop me from reading Ms Farr's other HR's, I've enjoyed the other 3 I've read so far, and will definitely read more.