Friday, July 18, 2008

Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas

Love has designs of its own.…

To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness, and freedom—by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.

But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines….When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and now Gigi wants to be free to marry again. When Camden returns from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for her freedom, Gigi’s decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled—and one of London’s most admired couples must either fall in love all over again…or let each other go forever.
When this book first came out there was a load of buzz around in blogland! As usual, I am late to the party, but I certainly do appreciate why there was such excitement around this book, especially given that it was a debut novel.

Gigi Rowland and Camden Saybrook have the perfect society marriage. No dramas, no fireworks, no scenes. Of course that state of civility is easy to achieve when the morning after the wedding one party moves out, and eventually is living on a whole other continent. Unfortunately for Gigi, she has decided that she wishes to marry another man, and so she asks Camden for a divorce. Instead of the easy agreement she was expecting, Camden returns to England. He will agree to a divorce, but there are conditions. He wants an heir first, which is understandably quite shocking to Gigi, even if in society it would be seen as a reasonable request.

I really enjoyed the way that the story was told. In one chapter, we find out about what is going on now as the couple negotiate their feelings for each other, whilst in the next chapter we learn exactly what happened so that two young people seemingly desperately in love would separate so suddenly following their wedding.

There was also a delightful secondary romance featuring Gigi's mother. She had raised her daughter with the hope that Gigi would one day be a duchess, and she is determined to make that happen, especially if Gigi continues with her plan to divorce her husband, who is a duke in waiting. When she realises that there is a duke living very close to her, she sets her plans in motion, but it doesn't take too long for her to reevaluate those plans.

One of the good features of this book is that the characters are by no means perfect. Yes Gigi is beautiful in the eyes of the men who love her and Camden handsome, and both have managed to take the resources they had and turn them into veritable fortunes, and therefore both are very rich. But Gigi is also manipulative, impatient and petulant at times. Camden is little better in that he reacts very badly when he finds out the truth the day before their wedding, and makes a decision that has the capacity to ruin both of their lives forever.

If there is one small thing to fault it is that at times the language and behaviour of the main characters, seemed a little too modern. For example, I have no idea if the word shag was one that would have been used in the late 1800's but to me it feels modern. Apart from those few instances, the prose in this book was amazing. The tension between Gigi and Camden leaped on the pages, and the heartbreak that both sides felt shortly after their marriage, and for Camden when he just misses Gigi when he finds that they are coincidentally both in Copenhagen was so beautifully written.

One thing that did happen to me in this book is that I read two sentences that totally threw me out of the book. Whilst I know that there are plenty of other readers around who will read a section in a book and think that is historically inaccurate and be thrown out of the book (for example if they read that potatoes were served for dinner in the 1000's and that was before they were introduced to England). I am not normally one of those readers, but it happened to me, not once but twice. The first time, it was when one of the characters said something about going all the way to Jakarta. Now when I read that I was assuming that they meant the city we know by that name in modern day Indonesia, but if that was what was meant then in the late 1800's that city was known by the name Batavia. I have no idea why it threw me so much...but it did.

The other sentence was one where my reaction was they can't possibly have that fact wrong, and so I ended up getting out of bed, checking the fact, and then going back to the book, and then rereading the sentence. I tell you I was very relieved when I read the sentence again and realised that I read it wrong!

Overall this was a fun read and a really impressive debut, and I am definitely going to be trying to get hold of Sherry Thomas' next book, Delicious, which is out later this month.


  1. AHH! I can't read this because I have this book in my hands and it's going to be read this weekend! It was a book swap from my friend JMC. So I'll come back Monday and we can compare notes.

    How funny we've got this at the same time! Have a good weekend.

  2. This book sounds good. Thanks for the review!

  3. Ohh, I want to read it.
    I like how important questions are answered early on in the story.

    recently I read a book where there were too many questions that I wanted answered, but the author didn't address them early enough on. I ended up not finishing the book because of it.

  4. Lyvvie, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Shana, you're welcome.

    Seneca, I really loved how she showed the earlier events in conjunction, instead of some big flashback or some other way of telling us what happened as opposed to letting us discover it for ourselves as the story moved along.