Mark is a highly intellectual man who has written a book on the importance of male chastity. To his great surprise, the book has risen to astonishing popularity, garnering him a knighthood and a swarm of fans. Unfortunately it has also attracted some enemies. One such enemy puts out a reward to any woman who can seduce the virtuous knight and ruin his reputation. Jessica has spent seven years as a courtesan and is determined to get out of the life. Knowing that the reward money would set her free, Jessica sets out to seduce Mark.
This is a highly character driven story, and fortunately the characters are quite likeable. Mark is genuinely noble and ethical, but desperately wants someone to see beyond all of that. Jessica is a strong, somewhat hardened character who's sole focus has been survival for a very long time. Yet Jessica does have a sense of morality, and right from the beginning she didn't really want to hurt Mark.
I guess have to take a moment to mention the virginity thing. Male virgin heroes are quite rare in romance novels, where as female virgins are a dime a dozen. I'm not sure whether this is supposed to reflect real life, or if it's because male virgins are thought to be unappealing. Personally, if it's the latter reason, I think that's codswallop.There is something oddly appealing about male virgins in a romantic book. I can remember two off-hand: Jamie from Outlander (a 5+ star book IMO) and Conrad from Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark books. In both cases the virgin factor was a huge positive for me. Anyway, in Unclaimed Mark is a virgin, and it does make for interesting plot and character developments. Not to mention the tension it creates.
The plot is mostly driven forward through internal conflict. Both Mark and Jessica have some scars from their past to be dealt with. The nature of these past hurts are revealed at a pace that built anticipation but did not, for the most part, feel drawn out. Between the well crafted plot and the Victorian country setting, I found it easy to immerse myself in the story.
Two very minor things. First, Mark was almost too perfect. Usually, even a brilliant and loveable hero will, being a man, screw up at some point in the story and make the reader just a little peeved at him. To me that moment is kind of crucial, because it puts the reader on the heroine's side and makes you root for her. It also helps the hero to seem more real. Without it, Mark comes across rather like a Prince Charming figure. But hey, who wouldn't marry Prince Charming, right? Second, Jessica's ongoing worry that she will hurt Mark or ruin him just by being with him wore a bit thin for me after awhile. Her worries were understandable, but somewhere around the second time she thought she might leave him for his own good I lost some patience. Thankfully the problem is resolved in a satisfactory manner, but it still bugged me just a bit.
Overall, it took me a total of a couple of hours over a two day span to read this book--very fast for me. That's a testament to how well written and enjoyable this novel is. Historical romance fans won't want to miss it! 4 stars.
*Speaking of Prince Charming, don't forget to vote for you favorite fairy tale. Poll ends Sunday! Happy Reading!*