Dukes Prefer Blondes (Dressmakers #4) by Loretta Chase

dukes prefer blondes

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can’t see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax’s nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child is in trouble, she turns to tall, dark, and annoying barrister Oliver Radford.

Though he’s unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford’s never been part of fashionable society, and the blonde beauty, though not entirely bereft of brains, isn’t part of his plans. But Clara overwhelms even his infallible logic, and when wedlock looms, all he can do is try not to lose his head over her.

It’s an inconvenient marriage by ordinary standards, but these two are far from ordinary. Can the ton’s most adored heiress and London’s most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?

Rating: A-

This fourth book in Loretta Chase’s Dressmaker series takes up the story of Lady Clara Fairfax, who has been a recurring secondary character since the first book, . Clara is the most sought-after young lady in London – possibly in the whole of England. She’s beautiful, of excellent lineage and well-dowered, but is suffocating in her life of seeming perfection. As readers of the previous books will already know, Clara is much more than a pretty face; she’s intelligent, witty and wants more from life than to be married to someone who wants her merely as a decorative accessory and a convenient source of money. Yet it seems that is what she is to be consigned to; brought up to be a fitting helpmeet to a duke, she inwardly seething with frustration, rejecting marriage proposals on a weekly basis from many hopeful gentlemen who can’t and don’t want to see the true woman beneath the gorgeous exterior.

Clara is determined, however, to do at least one useful thing in her life before she is forever consigned to the life of boredom enjoyed by society wives. Through her association with the Noirot sisters (heroines of the previous three books), Clara has become a patron of a charity which trains and finds work for young women who might otherwise have ended up on the streets. One of the girls is concerned for her younger brother, who has stopped attending school; she believes that he may have been enticed or forced back into working for a criminal gang. Clara is determined to find the boy and restore him to his sister – but knows she will not be able to do that without help.

Oliver “Raven” Radford is one of the foremost barristers in the country, and, if gossip is to be believed, one of its sharpest-tongued, most offensive men. He doesn’t suffer fools at all, let alone gladly, his brain is always several steps of everyone else’s and he says what he thinks when he thinks it and doesn’t give a damn for others’ opinions of him. His current work is a prosecution of a pauper farm (a place where poorhouses sent their ‘excess’ children) – and it’s to him – as a friend of her brothers’ – that Clara turns to for assistance.

At first, Radford is inclined to dismiss Clara and her idea of rescuing the boy, believing her to be just another society lady whose beauty far outstrips her brains. But Clara very quickly corrects his assumptions when she shows herself perfectly able to keep pace with the speed at which his mind works as well as to trade him barb for barb and quip for quip. He’s the first man not to have fallen at her feet, and much as Clara finds him infuriating and is quite able to sympathise with the number of people who probably want to throttle him, she also likes that he isn’t – or doesn’t seem – affected by her looks. The first part of the story is a sheer delight as the reader watches these two strong, clever people dance around each other, sizing each other up. It’s full of amazingly witty banter and bitingly sarcastic exchanges that are really several chapters’ worth of foreplay – and nobody does that better than Loretta Chase. She also brilliantly conveys the depth of Clara’s frustration with her life and the way everyone else sees her, culminating in an impassioned outburst to Radford: “You don’t know what it’s like to be scolded for reading too much and knowing too much – to be taught to hide your intelligence, because otherwise you’ll frighten the gentlemen away – to stifle your opinions, because ladies aren’t to have any opinions of their own, but must always defer to men.”

Her frequent witty asides and thoughts are also a wonderful commentary on the class system and on the position of women in society:

He was a man, an attractive man if one overlooked the obnoxiousness. But women had to overlook men’s personality flaws else nobody would ever wed and/or reproduce and the human race would come to an end.

Clara and Radford are clearly made for each other, matching each other in intelligence and determination, and the chemistry between them is searing. Clara has finally found her perfect mate – and now all that has to be done is to convince her parents of that fact, a challenge to which Radford, as the foremost barrister of his age, rises with aplomb. The second part of the book changes gear somewhat, with the couple having to work through the numerous adjustments that are necessary to adapt to married life. On top of that, a sudden death in the family means that Radford has to face the prospect of a major and unwanted life change while he’s also having to deal with certain members of the criminal class who are determined to do away with him.

Both protagonists are attractive, engaging characters – even Radford who, as is frequently pointed out, has a talent for being offensive and obnoxious. Those he may be, but he’s also drop-dead sexy, fiercely intelligent, funny and, when it comes to Clara, protective without being stifling. This is the 1830s, so he doesn’t suddenly become a raging feminist, but there is the definite acknowledgement on his part that his wife has a mind of her own that she is capable of putting to good use; and Clara, while pleased that her husband recognises this, remains sensible and doesn’t suddenly rush off and do stupidly out of character things.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dukes Prefer Blondes (even though the title has little to do with the story, as Radford isn’t a duke, and while he doesn’t deny that Clara is beautiful, I suspect that the colour of her hair didn’t bother him in the slightest!), but I can’t deny that I had a few issues with the pacing of the story which has knocked my final grade down a bit. The first part is undoubtedly the stronger, positively fizzing with energy as the sparks fly between Clara and Radford like there’s no tomorrow. Once the couple is married, that energy dissipates a little (although not completely) although I appreciated the way in which the author explores the early days of a marriage between two such strong-minded people, especially in the light of Radford’s changing family circumstances. They continue to bicker, but there’s a new understanding to their exchanges, and a sense that both of them are strongly invested in their marriage and prepared to make it work.

In spite of that criticism, Dukes Prefer Blondes is a treat for fans of Ms Chase’s writing and fans of historical romance in general. It’s wonderfully entertaining, with some of the finest banter I’ve ever read, and yet there’s more to it than that in the author’s razor-sharp observations of what it’s like to be a woman of the upper class, and her keen observation of the dress and social customs of the time. It’s a great read, and one I’m recommending highly.

add-to-goodreads-button

A Fashionable Indulgence (Society of Gentlemen #1) by K.J Charles (audiobook) – Narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies

a fashionable indulgence audio

This title may be purchased from Audible via Amazon

In the first novel of an explosive new series from K. J. Charles, a young gentleman and his elegant mentor fight for love in a world of wealth, power, and manipulation. When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity – yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips. After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.

Rating: A- for narration; A for content

The first in a new series of books by K.J. Charles, A Fashionable Indulgence (Society of Gentlemen Book 1) is, at first glance, a fairly simple story. It’s basically a rags-to-riches tale about a young man who is plucked from relative poverty and obscurity, and who has to learn to be a gentleman so that he can be presented to society by his well-to-do family. But Ms Charles turns it into an utterly compelling and unforgettable story, combining a heartfelt and sensual romance with an element of mystery set against a richly detailed and fascinating historical background; and when I read the book in the summer, I was utterly captivated.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Match of the Century by Cathy Maxwell (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

Match of the Century
This title may be purchased from Audible via Amazon

Every debutante aspires to snag a duke. Elin Morris just happens to have had one reserved since birth. But postponements of her marriage to London’s most powerful peer give Elin time to wonder how she will marry Gavin Baynton when she cannot forget his brother, Benedict.

Already exasperated at being yanked from the military to meet “family obligations”, now Ben must suffer watching his arrogant sibling squire the only woman he has ever loved. Joining the army saved Ben from sinking into bitterness, but seeing Elin again takes him back to the day they surrendered to their intoxicating desire.

As the wedding draws near, Elin tries to push Ben far from her thoughts. When danger brings them together, there is no denying their feelings. But can Elin choose love over duty?

Rating: A- for narration; C+ for content

Elin Morris has been betrothed to Gavin Whitridge, Duke of Baynton for as long as she can remember, the match engineered by both sets of parents when they were little more than children, and viewed by society as The Match of the Century, an alliance of great wealth on both sides. Now Elin is in her early twenties and Gavin a little older, it is time for the betrothal to be announced officially, and to begin preparations for the wedding. Given that Gavin is young, rich and gorgeous, it would seem that this story has nowhere to go – but the problem is that, while Elin likes and respects Gavin, she doesn’t love him and knows that while he thinks well of her and will always look after her, he doesn’t love her either. To make things even more difficult, eight years ago, when Elin was barely sixteen, she had believed herself in love with Gavin’s younger brother, Benedict, and had spent the night with him, although her dreams of a life with him were cruelly dashed when he left the very next day to embark on a military career.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

add-to-goodreads-button

Sweetest Scoundrel (Maiden Lane #9) by Elizabeth Hoyt

sweetest scoundrel
This title may be purchased from Amazon

SHE’S TAKING CHARGE

Prim, proper, and thrifty, Eve Dinwoody is all business when it comes to protecting her brother’s investment. But when she agrees to control the purse strings of London’s premier pleasure garden, Harte’s Folly, she finds herself butting heads with an infuriating scoundrel who can’t be controlled.

HE’S RUNNING THE SHOW

Bawdy and bold, Asa Makepeace doesn’t have time for a penny-pinching prude like Eve. As the garden’s larger-than-life owner, he’s already dealing with self-centered sopranos and temperamental tenors. He’s not about to let an aristocratic woman boss him around . . . no matter how enticing she is.

BUT LOVE CONQUERS ALL

In spite of her lack of theatrical experience—and her fiery clashes with Asa—Eve is determined to turn Harte’s Folly into a smashing success. But the harder she tries to manage the stubborn rake, the harder it is to ignore his seductive charm and raw magnetism. There’s no denying the smoldering fire between them—and trying to put it out would be the greatest folly of all.

Rating: B+

Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series of books set in Georgian London has been consistently entertaining, well-written and researched and has produced a number of memorable characters and sensual love stories which have proved incredibly popular. Amazingly, now nine books in, the series shows no sign of running out of steam, as this latest offering, Sweetest Scoundrel is another enjoyable tale, this time taking a most unlikely couple as its protagonists.

This book picks up the storyline followed in both Darling Beast and Dearest Rogue, of the rebuilding of the popular London pleasure garden, Harte’s Folly, which was burned to the ground at the end of book six, Duke of Midnight. Here, the renovation work is well under way with the grand re-opening just a month away and all is going well – until the Duke of Montgomery’s agent threatens to withdraw the duke’s financial support. Mr Harte has ignored all requests to have his account books inspected, the nitty-gritty of receipts and book-keeping not being something he is overly concerned with, his focus being much more on the bigger picture of getting a roof onto the theatre and finding a new castrati to perform the lead role in his new opera commission.

Miss Eve Dinwoody is the illegitimate half-sister of Valentine Napier, the enigmatic and Machiavellian Duke of Montgomery, and given Eve’s mental acuity and facility with facts and figures, her brother had no qualms about appointing her his “man” of business while he travels abroad. Harte – who is actually Asa Makepeace, the remaining unmarried Makepeace sibling – is furious at the threat to his life’s work, but as the rebuilding cannot continue without the duke’s money, he has to swallow his pride and try to make the “plain as a shovel” harpy change her mind.

He invites her to come to see the Folly for herself, and when she does, his obvious passion for the place impresses her. She decides to take over managing the finances herself so that she can keep an eye on her brother’s investment, and finds herself becoming more and more fascinated by the larger-than-life, blatantly sensual Asa, a man possessed of the sort of overwhelming masculinity that normally terrifies her.

As Eve and Asa ease themselves into a working relationship they begin to get to know each other and even to form a friendship of sorts. Eve is prim, shrewd and not initially prepossessing – not at all the sort of woman to whom Asa is usually drawn. Yet there is something beneath the surface, a vulnerability and a sense of untapped sensuality about her which intrigues him.

As the work on the theatre proceeds, a series of “accidents” threaten not only the opening night, but the lives of those associated with the project. Is Asa being targeted by a rival, or is there something even more sinister at work? I’m not telling, but even though the story does take rather a turn for the melodramatic towards the end, I was still on the edge of my seat wanting to find out the truth.

The novel is well-paced and intelligently written and I especially enjoyed the insight we are given into the world of eighteenth century theatre. Not only does the building itself have to be attended to, but there is also a company to be built, an orchestra to be rehearsed and singers to be engaged, and it all adds a lovely touch of background colour to the main story.

Eve and Asa are as different as chalk and cheese; she refined and reserved, he earthy and shameless, but somehow, as a couple they work, each of them bringing out admirable qualities in the other. Asa is a crude but deliciously sexy hero – a real force of nature who doesn’t give a fig what he looks like, swears like a trooper and knows he’s damn good at what he does, whether it’s running his pleasure garden or satisfying a woman in bed. With him, Eve begins to work through the fears she still suffers as the result of a horrific childhood experience at the same time as she brings out his gentler, more protective side and also encourages him to reunite with his estranged family. The scene in which he takes Eve to visit his brothers, sisters, spouses and children is very well done – a brilliantly realised uncomfortable family situation in which it takes a fight to start to clear the air! – and it’s a nice treat for fans to catch up with some of the characters from the earlier books.

While I think that Asa’s attraction to Eve appeared rather quickly, given his initial reaction to her was that she was a plain, skinny harpy with a beak of a nose, overall the love story is well developed with lots of moments of simple affection as well as ones of more overt sensuality. Ms Hoyt makes the most of Asa’s bawdy, flagrantly sexual nature in the love scenes; this is a man who knows what he wants and how to get it, yet he is also capable of restraint and great tenderness. The trauma Eve suffered gave her a fear and distrust of men, and I appreciated the way the author has Asa take things slowly between them, seducing Eve with words long before he even so much as touches her. I’ve often read books where such trauma is magically cured by the hero’s mighty wang, but fortunately, that doesn’t happen here. The real highlight of the book, however, is the way Eve, deciding that she has had enough of her solitary life and of living in a constant state of fear, starts to take her life back. Her discovery of her inner strength and courage is the emotional heart of the book and a joy to behold.

As she has done in all the other books in the series, Ms Hoyt admirably sets up the next one by introducing us to Miss Bridget Crumb, the efficient, no-nonsense housekeeper at the Duke of Montgomery’s London residence. The duke himself has proved an unpleasant character in previous books; a collector of secrets and a blackmailer, the only person he truly cares about is Eve and she is the only person in his life who loves him unconditionally. I can’t wait to see how the author redeems him and turns him into the hero of his own romance.

For now, though, Sweetest Scoundrel is another fine addition to this long-running series and one I enjoyed reading very much.

add-to-goodreads-button

A Bluestocking Christmas by Monica Burns

a bluestocking christmas

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Sinful words, wicked pleasures and a ghost all add up to A Bluestocking Christmas with a Dickens of a twist.

As a young man, Simon, Viscount Wycombe learned the painful truth that a tradesman’s daughter is suitable only for liaisons and nothing more. But Ivy Beecham is a far cry from his preconceived notions, and he’s determined to have her. But when she rejects him, it only increases his determination to seduce her into a world of sin and pleasure.

Ivy Beecham knows first-hand that handsome aristocrats like Simon can’t be trusted. But the intellectual scoundrel is hellbent on making her his mistress, using every means at his seductive disposal. When she refuses to give away her heart on Christmas Eve, a ghostly specter shows her in one night why her surrender can be the greatest gift of all.

Rating: C+

If you’re looking for a quick, spicy seasonal read, then A Bluestocking Christmas might fit the bill, but the essence is on the ‘spice’, as the content is very weighted in favour of the sex scenes, of which there are quite a few for a novella. That’s all well and good, because Monica Burns writes them very well, but if you’re looking for something that is more focused on the emotional development of the central romance, then perhaps you might want to look elsewhere.

Ivy Beecham is independently wealthy, courtesy of her tradesman father, but chooses to work at the London Library, simply because she adores books and likes to be among them. Although her mother came from an aristocratic family, Ivy has a massive chip on her shoulder when it comes to the nobility, courtesy of a youthful betrayal and a harsh upbringing by her aunt and uncle who took her in after the death of her parents and treated her like dirt because of her “commoner” blood.

Simon Carleton, Viscount Wycombe found his youthful self on the receiving end of a similar kind of betrayal, but in reverse when he was younger, when the young woman he wanted to marry was shown to be a gold-digger in the worst possible way. His protective instincts are aroused when it seems that his nephew is besotted with Ivy and is about to offer her marriage, and Simon confronts Ivy angrily, telling her he will never allow such a match.

Naturally, Ivy is furious, not only at the viscount’s high-handedness, but at the thought that she could ever want to have anything to do with a member of the peerage. With Simon’s suspicion of commoners and Ivy’s distaste for the nobility, theirs is an unlikely pairing, yet the heat that sparks between them whenever they set eyes on each other is undeniable.

The book opens in media res, with the couple having a massive row and seemingly about to part forever. Paying homage to Charles Dickens, Ms Burns has Ivy meet an oddly familiar spectre who tells her that he can grant her wish to forget all about Simon and their relationship, but before he can do so, she must look back over their time together to see if that is what she truly wishes. The spirit guides Ivy back through her time with Simon, showing how they met, how they became lovers and, she has to admit, how she fell in love with him, something she had not intended to do.

The story is well-constructed and the employment of a mysterious ghost adds to the Christmassy feel of the book, but I found it really difficult to like Ivy a lot of the time because she is just SO biased against a certain strata of society and tends to tar all aristocrats with the same brush. There’s no denying that the gap between rich and poor at this time in history was a massive one, but that didn’t mean that every member of the nobility was cruel and heartless. Simon is a far more attractive, reasonably-minded character in that respect, because while he was undeniably hurt in his youth by a scheming young woman, and he does jump to conclusions about Ivy initially, for the most part he has retained his perspective and tends to take people more on their own merits. He’s an intelligent, sexy hero who realises that Ivy isn’t like any other woman, and the way he woos her with words is nicely done.

But Ivy is so intransigent that I came really close to losing all sympathy for her towards the end of the book. Fortunately, she sees the error of her ways and all ends happily, with much love and forgiveness all round.

A Bluestocking Christmas is entertaining, but ultimately, focuses more on the physical relationship between the protagonists than on the emotional one, and I felt the lack of an emotional connection between them. That’s often the problem with a shorter format – but Ms Burns writes intelligently, and can certainly turn up the heat when needed. I may well seek out one of her full-length novels to see how she incorporates those successful elements into the longer form.

add-to-goodreads-button

Falling into Bed With a Duke by Lorraine Heath (audiobook) – Narrated by Helen Lloyd

falling into bed audio

This title may be purchased from Audible via Amazon

After six unsuccessful Seasons, Miss Minerva Dodger chooses spinsterhood over fortune-hungry suitors. But thanks to the Nightingale Club, she can at least enjoy one night of pleasure. At that notorious establishment, ladies don masks before choosing a lover. The sinfully handsome Duke of Ashebury is more than willing to satisfy the secretive lady’s desires – and draws Minerva into an exquisite, increasingly intimate affair.

A man of remarkable talents, Ashe soon deduces that his bedmate is the unconventional Miss Dodger. Intrigued by her wit and daring, he sets out to woo her in earnest. Yet Minerva refuses to trust him. How to court a woman he has already thoroughly seduced? And how to prove that the passion unleashed in darkness is only the beginning of a lifetime’s pleasure…?

Rating: C+ for narration; A- for content

I’ve become a big fan of Lorraine Heath’s historical romances over the past couple of years, and Falling into Bed With a Duke (Hellions of Havisham series, book 1) is a truly terrific read; poignant and emotionally satisfying with superb chemistry between the two leads, it’s one of my favourite books of 2015. I did, however, hesitate to experience it in audio because I had been so disappointed with Helen Lloyd’s performance in When the Duke was Wicked, which I found lacking in emotion and completely devoid of any sense of the sexual tension that simmers between the protagonists. But Ms Lloyd has continued to narrate more of Ms Heath’s books and I reasoned that perhaps she has improved and decided to give her another chance. Happily, I can report an improvement, although not to the extent that I would give this audiobook the sort of strong, wholehearted recommendation I gave the printed version.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

add-to-goodreads-button

The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behaviour (Seduction Diaries #2) by Jennifer McQuiston

the spinster's guide to scandalous behaviour

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Free-spirited Lucy Westmore isn’t yet a spinster, although she fully intends to be. Fortunately, an eccentric aunt has left her both a diary detailing the secrets to spinsterhood and a cottage in Cornwall. Unfortunately, an insufferable marquess is angling for her prize! Turning Lord Thomas Branston down flat should be easy. So why does this man who won’t take no for an answer make Lucy’s body and soul sigh yes?

Thomas knows the real value of Heathmore Cottage, and he has no intention of letting some silly Society miss get her hands on it. He’ll simply have to charm Lucy into selling. But the clever young woman he encounters, first in London, then en route to Cornwall, stands stubbornly on her own two (quite lovely) feet. And now, Thomas can think only of sweeping her off them.

Rating: B+

This second book in Jennifer McQuiston’s Seduction Diaries series re-acquaints readers with Lucy Westmore, the free-spirited, rather hoydenish younger sister of the heroine of the previous book. The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior is a deftly written story that packs quite the emotional punch and boasts plenty of humour and sexual tension between the leads. But Lucy is one of those heroines who insists on being contrary for the sake of it, and whose stubbornness and impetuosity often lead her into difficult and potentially dangerous situations for no other reason than that she won’t be told what to do by a man – which puts her into the TSTL bracket more often than I would have liked.

Lucy is now twenty-one, and not at all relishing the prospect of making her début and having a season, no matter that her mother’s dearest wish is for her to find a husband and settle down. But Lucy doesn’t want to marry, knowing full-well that as a wife, she will in effect be her husband’s property and will have no freedom or independence. When she receives a package containing her recently deceased Aunt Edith’s diaries together with a letter informing her that she has been left a cottage in Lizard Bay, Cornwall in the old lady’s will, Lucy sees it as a sign. She doesn’t remember much about her rather eccentric aunt, but she knows that she trod her own path, choosing not to marry and to live an independent life, exactly as Lucy wants to do. Naturally, she is furious when she discovers that her father has arranged to sell Heathmore Cottage without her knowledge and without her having even seen it – and is even more determined to make her way to Cornwall to see the place and perhaps even take up residence.

The cottage’s would-be purchaser is Thomas, Marquess of Branston, a young man who retreated to rural Cornwall following his sister’s funeral some three years earlier. Having lost both parents and come into his marquessate at the age of eleven, Thomas was a studious young man, but after he left university, he fell in with the wrong crowd and spent most of his time thereafter in the bottom of a bottle. When his sister turned up on his doorstep pregnant, Thomas was too drunk to do anything to help her and then went into a further downward spiral upon the realisation that he had failed her. After the funeral, he fled London and the horrendous resultant scandal and ended up in Lizard Bay, where he encountered the redoubtable Miss E – Lucy’s aunt – who bullied him into the sobriety he has maintained for the past three years.

When Lucy, furious at her father’s presumption in attempting to sell her inheritance, dashes off an uncompromising letter to Thomas, he immediately travels to London – a place he has avoided like the plague for three years – to see if he can charm her into selling to him after all, but Lucy is adamant. She wants to travel to Cornwall to see the cottage for herself before she makes a decision, and even though Thomas offers her far more than the place is worth, she sticks to her guns and refuses him once more, suspicious as to why he is so desperate to buy a place that her father has told her is rat-infested, falling down and situated in the middle of nowhere.

I enjoyed the flirtatiously antagonistic relationship that springs up between Thomas and Lucy, although I did get a bit impatient with Lucy’s persistence in believing the worst of him. That said, their romance develops at a good pace so there’s a sense of their getting to know each other even as they are grappling with the strength of their unexpected mutual attraction. Lucy never expected to feel desire for a man or to have such feelings reciprocated; and the moment when she admits to herself that her determination to remain a spinster has more to do with her fears that she is undesirable than it does with a true inclination to remain single is a poignant one. This also marks the beginning of a new maturity for Lucy, as she begins to understand herself better and to see that so many of her decisions had been prompted by a need to feel important rather than genuine altruism.

Thomas is a lovely hero – kind, funny, understanding and genuinely caring, he grew to admire and respect Lucy’s aunt, and sees much of Miss E in her niece; but he is clear-sighted enough to recognise that perhaps the lady’s life wasn’t quite as full and happy as Lucy seems to believe. The inclusion of various passages from Miss E’s diary is an effective device used to draw parallels between her mindset and Lucy’s. Ms McQuiston does a very good job here of getting the reader to read between the lines as to the truth of Edith Westmore’s self-imposed exile, gradually revealing to Lucy that what her aunt is really trying to tell her is that a life well-loved is a life well-lived.. I did wish that Lucy had arrived at that realisation sooner, however, as her stubborn belief that Miss E would have wanted her to follow in her footsteps and make her life alone makes her seem hopelessly naïve at times and is part of the reason she is not always easy to like.

It’s a refreshing change to read a romance set away from the hustle and bustle of London, and I really appreciated the way in which the community of Lizard Bay is integrated into Thomas and Lucy’s story. One of the things Ms McQuiston has done in all the books of hers I’ve read is to give her heroes an unusual profession (for a romantic hero, that is), and she continues that here by making Thomas a botanist and, in modern parlance, an environmentalist.

I had a few other minor issues with the story, such as the fact that some of the flirtatious banter between Lucy and Thomas is perhaps a little TOO shocking, even for a scandalous spinster! But in spite of that, and even with my reservations about the heroine, The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior is still a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read.

add-to-goodreads-button