Read the full (spoiler-free) review here.
The plot is cleverly put together with two storylines unfolding simultaneously, the main one focused on the impending (and scandalous) divorce between Lord and Lady Tremaine and one that took place ten years earlier, showing how the two of them wound up married and separated in the first place. The two time periods enhance each other, and the end result is an emotionally satisfying love story where the reader understands the characters and their motivations as well as they themselves do.
I thoroughly enjoyed Private Arrangements. For one thing, it's set in the Victorian period instead of Regency, which is a wonderful change of pace for a historical romance. The prose is lovely, and it's just generally a thoughtful, intelligent read. I loved getting to witness the backstory unfold as well as the reconciliation; a quick summary of what happened between them would not have had me nearly as emotionally invested as the smooth back-and-forth here did.
The characters are all very real and very sympathetically portrayed. Both Gigi and Camden are delightfully flawed characters who have to learn and change before they're able to grasp at their happy ending. Even Gigi's scheming, overbearing mother becomes a very fun character, in spite of sounding like another cliché at first glance. She's determined to see her daughter married to a duke, and if Gigi is going to divorce the one she married, then her mother will find another to replace him. Of course, things don't turn out quite the way schemey mother plans, and the results are some of the best scenes in the book.
The only issue I had at all with Private Arrangements was with the decision Gigi makes near the end, when she and Camden have discovered that they love each other. It felt unnatural, considering how straightforward she is through the rest of the story, and almost felt like a manufactured way to extend the book another 50 pages. It wasn't enough to ruin the ending for me, just irritating enough that I had to ramble about it in this review.
As a story, Private Arrangements has remarkable depth, earning the book a spot on my keeper shelf and Sherry Thomas a spot on my "to watch" list. I loves me some character development, and this book has it in spades.