Skeptic scale: ♥♥
The heroine is a redhead. That is all.
Oh, you need more? No, you really don't. Because the color of her hair tells you EVERYTHING about her personality. She's fiery, independent, unique...see? You knew everything already when I said the word "redhead".
On behalf of my redheaded friends and probably most other people with hair color that has become synonymous with "independence" and "tempestuousness" - please, pretty please, can we just STOP with this cliche. I'll do anything. Just make it stop.
He: Nicholas has only recently inherited the duchy of Temberlay when his brother passes away in what seem like mysterious circumstances. He is a hardened man, after seeing war and a general lack of familial affection all his life. His grandmother, the Dowager Duchess seems to have had it in for him since he was a child and seems to spend a lot of her time trying to express her general lack of approval of him. He has a reputation for being a rake (don't they all) and a reprobate (obviously).
She: Marguerite (or Meg, as she is more prosaically known) is the less beautiful sister of the woman who is tapped to be Nicholas' wife and duchess. When the pretty (but featherbrained) sister absconds because she can't bear to be married to such a man, Meg steps in to take her place. Well, clearly she's the only one with any fire in her to withstand such a man. She's a redhead, you see.
Conflict: His grandmother basically goes out and "buys" a wife for Nicholas and then blackmails him into marrying her. The bait is that Nicholas only gets to his grandmother's wealth to restore the family coffers if he weds (and beds) this bride that she's chosen for him. He's not that keen on a wife, especially since he's being forced to marry her. Also, he's on a mission to discover the reason for his brother's death so he doesn't need the distraction.
Oh, the NUMBER of soggy, overcooked tropes in this story...
1) Rakish/angry hero who seems to have no trouble charming and seducing ladies but can't seem to be moderately nice to his own wife. Also, he fancies himself to be some kind of sexual savant, felling ladies right and left with his mastery. Worst of all, he boasts about it to her. Puhleese. A real man doesn't need to say anything. He shows.
2) Red-haired heroine who has (gasp) a spine of steel and doesn't let people push her around. Except she does get pushed around. Quite a lot actually.
3) A mysterious death the hero's family that needs to be solved so that the hero can have some closure/vengeance.
4) Caricatur-ish side characters: The villain is a one-dimensional evil-doing hobbit, Meg has a is a trusty servant who has known her since birth and warns everyone not to trifle with her feelings because she's such a gem, the hero's nicknamed Devil, the hero's horse is a magnificent, powerful creature totally devoted to him and many, many, many other such stereotypes.
5) All the women in the book (save our red-headed Meg) are the WORST. Either frivolous (Meg's beautiful but spoiled sister), stupid (Meg's extremely annoying mother), weak and needing to be saved (a woman who committed an indiscretion and now needs someone to save her and her baby), greedy (the hero's mistress) or controlling (the grandmother).
It was like there was a random cliche generator and we just read a long list of tired, overused tropes in the story. I was pretty wrung out by the end so even though the writing was ok and the heroine was a commendable, if not terribly original, character, I just didn't think there was anything in here that I have not read before a thousand times. Should I try another of Lecia Cornwall's? Maybe I just picked wrong...