Sunday, April 11, 2010
A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen's club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried - and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.
But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss - to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston - charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all - the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love . . .
I finished this book last week and how do I count the nine ways I loved this book? Impossible. I can't. I just simply loved it!
At first I thought "Oh no, is this going to be another one of those spinster wallflower stories?" It is, but it's new and fresh, for it turns the wallflower story on it's head. Callie, our heroine, catches the eye of a rake, but not in the usual way. Her "list" of adventurous things she wants to do to feel alive again puts her in the path of our hero, rake about town, Gabriel, the Marquess of Ralston. He finds himself oddly attracted to this unusual girl who is not what she seems. He finds that not only is she refreshingly different from his tiresome mistress, she has the air of respectibility he needs to launch his half-sister into society!
I loved Callie as our heroine. She's been suffering for years under the thumb of her mother who has no idea how to dress her zaftig daughter. She has been subject to the strictures of society and at the dear old age of twenty eight, has been relegated to the spinster section of the ballroom forever. Finally, with the engagement of her younger sister, she has had enough. It's time she got a life - and she acts on it immediately! She writes up a list - basically, a "Nine things to do before I die" list. The first one she tackles on the list is a real doozy! Instead of skirting around the issue of loving the Marquess of Ralston from afar for the past ten years, she goes right to his townhouse in the middle of the night and asks him to kiss her (in his bedroom, no less!) And what a kiss!
I loved Callie for she is secretly daring and determined, though vulnerable too. She blossoms over the course of the book and becomes her own assertive self. Yet, I felt badly for her for she was considered "plump." Ralston admires her luscious curves, she was perhaps not so much chubby, but well endowed and only considered heavy for that day and age - a shame, for she didn't deserve the cognomen, which is a major theme in the story, for she blooms once she's in the proper dress made for her. Often, she must put up with slights and insults regarding her figure and I cringed and sympathized with her each time. Even Ralston at one point makes her feel inferior, though it was all a misunderstanding! Oh, how I hate it when that happens!
But back to the list...
Callie goes through with her entire list, and each item on it was a pleasure to read about - and it was so much fun to see how these adventures of hers would turn out, I really wondered how the author would do it - it was brilliant! Of course, Ralston stars in most of them, though that is not Callie's intention at first. The sex between them was steamy and well done, fitting into the storyline seamlessly. Not gratuitous or too long or flowery, just right with the perfect amount of build up and sexual chemistry needed to make it interesting, no matter how many encounters they had before making it legal. *fans self*
Ralston as a rake was far from perfect, though he manages to overcome his perceived inability to love and changes for the better by the end of the book. I love rakes and he was an irresistible one and a great lover too, which doesn't hurt! I loved it how he always seemed to pop up to help Callie with her list. I loved the way he was daring with her - he snuck into her bedroom and even made love to her at Brooks, his club. *fans self* She was some lucky girl!
A new author to me, I loved Ms. MacLean's writing style, I'll definitely be looking for her future books! Very well done, no jarring historical errors that I noticed in language or setting and attire. I felt we could have seen more in the development of the side characters, such as Ralston's Italian half-sister, Juliana and his brother Nicholas and Callie's brother, Benedick, though I suspect they'll all get books of their own. I wanted to know what becomes of Juliana's debut and the duke she meets in the bookstore. It was unclear if we later meet him with his mother who both snub her - or was that his father? Kind of a miss mash, I guess I'll have to go back and re-read it! *grin* There were elements in this book that reminded me of Julia Quinn, whose a favorite of mine: humor and poignancy in a regency setting, not to mention great sex! A winning combination!
The plain wallflower theme has been done to death but MacLean made it work here and it was a pleasure to read. I could have killed Ralston a few times, he really had a learning curve to overcome, I hated some things he did to Callie and the fact he couldn't recognize he loved her until so late in the game when he thought he'd lost her. Still, that's what made it so good! *grin* I ate it up like candy! A keeper! Brava!