Thursday, September 23, 2010
Alistair Carsington really, really wishes he didn't love women quite so much. To escape his worst impulses, he sets out for a place far from civilization: Derbyshire - in winter! There he hopes to kill two birds with one stone: avoid all temptation - and repay the friend who saved his life on the fields of Waterloo. But this noble aim drops him straight into opposition with Miss Mirabel Oldridge, a woman every bit as intelligent, obstinate, and devious as he--and maddeningly irresistible. Mirabel Oldridge already has her hands full keeping her brilliant and aggravatingly eccentric father out of trouble. The last thing she needs is a stunningly attractive, oversensitive, and overbright aristocrat reminding her she has a heart--not to mention a body he claims is so unstylishly clothed that undressing her is practically a civic duty. Could the situation be any worse? And why does something so wrong feel so very wonderful?
So far the romances I've read by Loretta Chase have been pretty good overall. One, in particular, was great, Lord of Scoundrels. One of my favorites. Unfortunately Miss Wonderful wasn't bad but it wasn't great either. The main plotline besides the romance between the hero and heroine wasn't all that compelling to me - it involved a proposal. No, not a marriage proposal. It was a proposal to build a canal. Our heroine, Mirabel, didn't want it to go through her property and the hero, Alistair did. As an investor in the canal's success, he was sent to her county in England to enlist the support and approval from the local landowners, one of which is her father. Naturally, Mirabel and Alistair are on opposite sides of the equation, but Alistair has a tendency to fall in love easily and as soon as he sees her, he is smitten. Mirabel finds him handsome and the attraction between them is mutual, but she will not budge on the canal issue, taking over the duties and voice of her preoccupied and flora obsessed father. Her answer was an unequivocal no in regard to the canal, and she would not give in, no matter what her feelings for Alistair. In or out of bed.
As much as the book had it's steamy and humorous moments, for the most part I felt the whole plotline regarding the canal and Mirabel's stubbornness by not giving in to the idea - annoying. There were funny bits of humor and I liked Alistair, but at first I thought he was way too fussy and a dandy about his clothes. But by the end, I liked how the storyline deepened, and we realize that Alistair is not just a superficial dandy. We get the background on him and it is explained why his clothing obsession (a la Beau Brummel) was a sort of post traumatic stress disorder he got after nearly dying at Waterloo. Since then, he has had to live down the idea that he is some kind of war hero which he felt undeserving. All he did was survive the battle - with a limp. Witnessing so much blood and carnage, he suffers inwardly from survivor guilt which has turned him into a clothes horse, thus becoming the fashion expert amongst the Regency ton. I sympathized with him and also appreciated the parallel regarding Mirabel's father's botany obsession that manifested after the death of his beloved wife and mother to Mirabel.
Still, Mirabel's fixation on not allowing the canal was bothersome, it was a pesky plot point that I wished would just go away. Especially, how she was willing to go against Alistair, even after seducing him! Spinster that she is at the age of thirty-one, (she's older than him by two years) she goes for, what she perceives as, the last chance to lose her virginity and see what it's all about. Alistair protests at first, but he's only human. Honor be damned! The woman is tossing her stockings at him and stripping off her clothes - what's he to do? Plus, he wasn't quite himself, recovering from an accident to the head.
Mirabel, in my opinion, did too many things that seemed out of character for her. Once she meets Alistair she goes from the prim and proper, well respected daughter of the county's primary gentleman landowner to the local sleep a-around! (Okay, I'm exaggerating.) I couldn't quite get it though, how could she feel so attracted to Alistair when they were at such odds against one another? What compelled her to choose him? I felt that Alistair needed some growing up to do. He came across as a sort of lightweight hero, but he grows up over the course of the book, yet nothing overly swoonworthy or notable about him. I felt like she was always leading Alistair on, despite wearing the hideous clothes and hairdos to deliberately repel him. Was it because she wanted a last stab at romance and he was around and interested?
She climbs up a ladder to his room in the daytime (as if no one would notice a ladder propped up against the side of the house outside his window in broad daylight?) and enters his sick room with every intention of having an afternoon of mad passion and enlightenment into the mysteries of sex - despite the fact she is trying to thwart his every move about the canal. He's still somewhat recovering from a blow to the head from a rock in a stream (an accident prone kind of hero) and succumbs to her charms. It was actually one of the more entertaining parts of the book. He makes a gallant effort to forestall her attempts at seduction but his libido rules over his good sense and Mirabel gets her way. But... but... afterwards it just didn't sit right with me. Mirabel still plotted behind his back by making him look like he's not quite right in the head... it just didn't sit well with me even though she felt like she was falling in love with him! WTF? I didn't like that and it shaded my impression of her and the book overall. It all ends well with a reasonable solution to their fundamental difference of opinion, but overall, I couldn't have cared less about the damn canal and whether it was built or not!
Alas, the book just didn't do it for me, unlike some of the other Chase books I've read. Still, I have high hopes for the future of this series and reading about Alistair's brothers, younger and older.
On a last note, I still don't understand why this book is titled, Miss Wonderful. I guess it's catchy, but not very apropos to the storyline. Mirabel was far from wonderful in my estimation, although she finally comes around in the end, but it was like pulling teeth to get her to do it!