Since being named “London’s Lord to Land” by a popular ladies’ magazine, Nicholas St. John has been relentlessly pursued by every matrimony-minded female in the ton. So when an opportunity to escape fashionable society presents itself, he eagerly jumps—only to land in the path of the most determined, damnably delicious woman he’s ever met!
The daughter of a titled wastrel, Lady Isabel Townsend has too many secrets and too little money. Though she is used to taking care of herself quite handily, her father’s recent passing has left Isabel at sea and in need of outside help to protect her young brother’s birthright. The sinfully handsome, eminently eligible Lord Nicholas could be the very salvation she seeks.
But the lady must be wary and not do anything reckless and foolish…like falling madly, passionately in love.
Rating: Narration B+, Content B
It’s been a while since I read Sarah Maclean’s Love By The Numbers trilogy, but I remember liking this – the middle book – the best out of the three. The hero is Lord Nicholas St. John, a bit of a nineteenth century Indiana Jones – an adventurer and expert in antiquities whose exploits in foreign lands have landed him in hot water on numerous occasions. Returned to England, he has been identified – much to his mortification – as London’s most eligible bachelor and is now the subject of a series of magazine articles devoted to the techniques a young lady might employ in order to “land a lord.” Partly to escape the hordes of young women batting their eyelashes at him, and partly to help the Duke of Leighton, Nick travels to Yorkshire on the trail of Leighton’s sister, who has mysteriously disappeared.
His enquiries lead him to the small and uninspiring village of Dunscroft in Yorkshire. He and his Turkish companion, Durukhan – or Rock, for short – can find no further trace of the runaway, and are trying to work out what to do when Nick dashes off in order to save a young woman from walking into the path of a runaway cart.
The woman is Lady Isabel Townsend, daughter of the recently deceased “wastreal”, the Earl of Reddich. Her father was an inveterate and unlucky gambler who left nothing when he died, so she worries constantly about how she is going to maintain the estate until her ten-year-old brother is old enough to take the reins. Not only that, but she is keeping a massive secret. Townsend Park has a double identity as Minerva House, a sanctuary for young women escaping from impossible and abusive situations.
Isabel has very reluctantly decided to sell the collection of marble statuary bequeathed to her by her mother in order to purchase a new property for the refuge. Given that Nick is a member of the Royal Society of Antiquities, his arrival is timely. He agrees to catalogue and value the collection for sale. But then Isabel is faced with a massive problem: how to keep Nick and Rock from discovering the secret of Minerva House? And once she has spent more time around the handsome and very charming Nicholas St. John, how to curb her growing attraction to him?
Nick finds himself similarly fascinated by his hostess, and it doesn’t take him long to work out what her prickly manner is hiding. His thing for damsels in distress has landed him in deep trouble before, yet he doesn’t allow that to stop him from offering Isabel his help. But she finds it difficult to accept assistance, and even more difficult to trust others. Her father’s irresponsibility has led her to believe that men can’t be trusted, an impression only reinforced by the stories of cruelty suffered by the women she has taken in at Minerva House.
I enjoyed this story of two people who have been emotionally burned in different ways deciding to let go of the past and move on. The pacing is good, all the characters are well-drawn, and there is plenty of humour in the dialogue. Nick is a delightfully compelling hero. Gorgeous, intelligent, authoritative, and extremely sexy, he’s also a thoroughly decent, good man. The romance unfolds at a good pace, with the sparks flying between the protagonists from their very first meeting, and the love scenes are very sensual.
My one complaint in terms of the storytelling is that while Isabel’s reluctance to trust Nick is understandable, her insistence on keeping him out goes on too long. He proves himself over and over to be worthy of her trust, but she keeps pulling back from him. There are only so many slights on his honour a gentleman can take. I also noticed something which I’ve seen mentioned in other reviews of Ms Maclean’s books: frequent repetition of certain words or phrases. I confess not to have noticed while reading, but in audio, these are painfully obvious. Isabel “gasps” and “cries out” a lot – usually at something Nick is doing! *wink*
This is the second audiobook narrated by Mary Jane Wells that I have listened to, and once again, she delivers a very engaging performance. Her vocal range isn’t especially large, but she differentiates all the characters very well by using a variety of accents and timbres. Her portrayal of Nick is especially good. She captures his humour and the sense of authority that underlies his often laconic exterior very well indeed. There are a couple of times when Nick and Rock or Nick and Gabriel sound a little too alike, as the differences in their portrayals are very subtle. But overall, it isn’t a problem to tell them from one another.
I was surprised that Ms Wells opted not to give Rock an accent, or even the trace of one. An accent isn’t specified in the text, it’s true, but Rock is Turkish, and even though it appears he has been away from there for some time, it’s unlikely that he’d be speaking completely unaccented English. For the rest of the time though, her acting choices are pretty much spot on, especially in the more emotional moments. There are, however, a couple of occasions in the love scenes where she sounds a little too matter-of-fact.
Ms Wells has proved to be a welcome addition to the ranks of narrators of historical romance, and I hope she is going to narrate more. She could, however, do with a crash-course in “How to Pronounce Frequently Used Words in Historical Romance:” “marquis” is not pronounced “mar kiss” and “ton” is not pronounced “tone.” Both are common words in the genre, and, when mispronounced, stand out like sore thumbs. Otherwise, her performance is very enjoyable, and I look forward to listening to more of her work.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.