Love with the Perfect Scoundrel by Sophia Nash
This is the first book I've read by Sophia Nash. At first glance, it is typical Avon historical fare--right down to the extremely BORING cover. But after a page or two, it becomes pretty obvious that Nash's characters are anything but ordinary.
Her hero, a former colonist blacksmith, is certainly not your typical bored noble or haughty aristocrat. And I loved the combination of gruffness, practicality and gentleness he exuded. The heroine was also not your average, easily discomposed young lady, but a realistic, pragmatic woman.
What I didn't love, at all, was the jerkiness of the narrative. It plodded along at a steady pace, then --whoosh--jumped through scenes that could have been more fully explored. The bad guys in the story popped out of nowhere, had a scene or two, then popped back out. The ending was extremely odd--almost an afterthought.
I finished the book, feeling as if two terrific characters were treated unfairly in a sub-par book. Turns out the cover was a fairly good indicator of the mediocrity of this particular novel.