Review: Grace Under Fire by Jackie Barbosa

Grace Under Fire by Jackie Barbosa
Spice Brief published by Harlequin on April 1, 2011

London, 1795

While most of Society views Lady Grace Hannington as a clumsy laughingstock, Atticus Stilwell and Viscount Colin Fitzgerald see their perfect partner—a woman who is more than enough for not just one man, but two. She is well-bred enough to be the wife Colin needs, with a blossoming sensuality both men cannot wait to taste.

But Grace will also need strength to withstand the ton’s scrutiny if she agrees to their scandalous arrangement. Can Atticus and Colin show her enough wicked pleasure to convince her to become theirs forever?

I’ve read this story a few times now, and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. However, I’m having trouble putting into words (or even thoughts), why. I think a lot of it had to do with length, but I’m hesitant to say that because the obvious response would be “well obviously it was too short, it was a Spice Brief!” And… yes. Yes I realize that. Which is why I’m having such difficulty. I did give it some leeway as a super short. And, I did like it, and enjoyed Ms. Barbosa’s writing. The pacing is also nicely done. I think it’s just there was too much going on, in a way. So, perhaps it was despite ignoring the word/page constraints, there were a few things for which I could not suspend belief.

I liked that the relationship and need for Colin and Atticus to share women – and in fact everything – is explained. However, I don’t know how much I believe the explanation. That’s a personal thing, however, and maybe it won’t bother you at all. Otherwise, how the ton treats Grace differently after the opening. Why, as soon as she’s “defended her honor” would the men be clamoring over her? I can see the chaperones and other girls being more accepting, but for men to suddenly want her hand in marriage, after basically treating her like a pariah was too much for me. Some interest, maybe. Such an increase, unlikely. Her looks, and lack of grace haven’t changed.

There isn’t much to say in the way of characterization because the nature of Spice Briefs, but I felt that I had a good sense of who Grace, Atticus, and Colin all are. They’re sensible decent people, who are somewhat set apart from society. They belong in the strictest sense, but not actually. I also liked that Ms. Barbosa had them considering pragmatic issues, such as how society would treat them and their relationship, and worrying about emotions versus image. We all like to say of course happiness and love carry the day, but that’s simply not realistic. That Ms. Barbosa wrote a happy ending – obviously, as it’s a romance – but one that makes practical sense is impressive, and definitely something I appreciated.

The onslaught and seduction of Grace by Atticus and Colin also lends credibility to Grace falling for them so quickly. Physical and emotional intimacy are closely tied, and also Grace is touched by the fact that they both decided she was “the one” before they’d ever even interacted – that they had watched her, studied her, and put so much effort into orchestrating their first meeting. And here… I’ll fall into that trap – I do wish it was longer, and more developed though. It just… needed that indescribable something else to be wonderful.

If you like short reads, and historical romances, especially with a bit of heat, I think you should give Grade Under Fire a try. (And if you like slightly longer books, I can definitely recommend reading Behind the Red Door. It’s an anthology with three novellas all written by Ms. Barbosa.)

Grade: C+

As a special treat- Jackie Barbosa has guested here previously, and this is the blurb that she wrote for Grace Under Fire.

Lady Grace Hannington is the most inaptly named debutante in all of London. Cursed with two left feet, hands that are nothing but thumbs, and a stutter, she’s certain to spend the next five years on the wall and the rest of her life on the shelf. Or so she believes, until her clumsiness pitches her literally into the arms of Lord Colin Fitzgerald and his best friend, Atticus Stilwell.

Colin and Atticus have been inseparable since a shared boyhood tragedy brought them together more than twenty years ago. Though it raises eyebrows, they share everything…including women. This particular quirk has made it all but impossible for Colin, whose title and lands will revert to the crown if he doesn’t have a legitimate heir, to find a respectable lady who’s willing to be his wife.

When a stroke of good fortune—and a little intervention from a well-placed foot—gives the two men a golden opportunity to show the lovely and lonely Lady Grace she’s not quite so gauche as she believes, they play it (and her) for all they’re worth. But once she’s discovered her true talents lie not on the dance floor but in the bedroom, Grace must decide whether a scandalous marriage that’s sure to ruin her reputation is what she really wants.

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