Length: 371 pages
Pub Date: 2008
FTC: purchased used
This is one of those series that everyone seems to love...but I honestly can't remember if I've read any of the other entries in it. I may have read I Kissed an Earl, but I have no record of it. It sounds really familiar. I hate my memory sometimes. Anyway, I think this qualifies for this month's theme, since I am *really* behind on the series. I'm especially behind everyone else who has read the series because they're all breathlessly awaiting Lyon's book. I'm back at #2. We'll just call this month's theme "aka Late to the Party."
I love Julia Anne Long's voice. Her writing is so evocative, you just sink into the story. It's sly and witty without being too obvious about it. I found myself smiling at turns of phrase, just because. And the characters were all uniformly well formed. There are no cardboard secondary characters here.
I'm really surprised that I ended up liking the heroine, Cynthia. She first appears as the stereotypical "grasping woman," but by the end of the story, you're rooting for her as much as for Miles—who is simply all things adorable. I loved Miles.
Miles Redmond is the second son of a powerful, wealthy man from a powerful, wealthy family. He's on a mission to get married to someone "suitable" and quickly in order to receive promised funding for his next expedition. Miles is an explorer and scientist. He's also, apparently, a dynamo in the sack and highly sought after by bored wives and widows.
The original conflict starts well before the house party that makes up the bulk of this story. It's at another event where Miles overhears himself described in horribly unflattering terms by toast of the ton, Cynthia Brightly. Having never really concerned himself with what people thought of him before, he's a little stunned to find he really cares what Miss Brightly thinks. He's unhelpfully fascinated by her and can't seem to shake it. Which makes it dreadfully inconvenient when she later shows up at his family's house party as the guest of his sister Violet.
(Yes, there's more than a little Pride and Prejudice here.)
Miles soon discovers that Cynthia is on the hunt for a marriage proposal...and she needs it quickly before news of her broken engagement makes it from London to Pennyroyal Green. He offers to help her snare an unsuspecting man by using his inside knowledge about each of her potential suitors. Things go awry, however, when Miles's attempt to woo a suitable bride falls flat because he's too focused on Cynthia.
The overall plot is not terribly original given all of the many, many house party books out there. But what sets this one apart is that both Miles and the reader are slowly wooed by Cynthia. Her character, her true self is revealed in bits and pieces. Her motivation and pragmatism are completely believable and understandable. She goes from unsympathetic and shallow to something else entirely. It's masterfully done.
My Grade: A-
It's the last chance for Cynthia Brightly, the ton's most bewitching belle. Driven out of London by a secret scandal, she must find a grand husband at the Redmonds' house party before word of her downfall spreads all over England. Unfortunately, someone at Pennyroyal Green is already privy to the whispers of broken engagements and dueling lovers: Miles Redmond, renowned explorer and—thanks to his brother's disappearance—heir to the family's enormous fortune.
Miles set his sights on Cynthia once, at a time when the ambitious beauty thought herself too good for a second son. But now he's heir apparent, relishing his control. He strikes a bargain with her: he'll keep Cynthia's steamy secrets and help her find a husband among the guests—in exchange for a single kiss.
What could be the harm in a simple kiss? Cynthia is about to discover that it's enough to unleash fierce passion—and that Miles Redmond is most certainly like no other lover in the world.