Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is a 28 year old spinster. She has accepted this role and is quite comfortable in it, or at least she was until one day she overhears her little sister talking about her and saying that she is passive, that she will make a great aunt but she would have made a great mother too. This is a wakeup call for her, she was always passionate and was hoping to find the love of her life, but time went by and nothing. Now she finds herself feeling old, plump and average, and she decides to change that. But she doesn’t get a makeover, nope, she writes a list of the outrageous unladylike things she wants to do. Among those things we have drinking scotch, riding astride and getting her first kiss. Since the kiss is number one on the list she decides to do it with the guy she has secretly admire for the past ten years, Gabriel St. John, Marquis of Ralston, who happens to be a very famous rake.
I admit that some time ago I suffered from historical romance overdose, especially regency novels. I think I read so many that I just couldn’t stand them anymore. And by that time I had discovered contemporary romance which marked my official breakup with the 19th century. But of course there will always be some remaining feelings. Besides, my relationship with historical romance was a very passionate one. So when the third book in this series started to make a lot of noise in the reviewing community I was very curious. Since I hate reading series out of order I decided to give this one a try first and see how it went. Boy was I in for a ride! Let me tell you, if I keep finding regency novels as good as this one, I might ask the genre to take me back.
This book had a very old and tried premise, the ugly duckling. And everything that happens is very unoriginal and actually predictive. You have the ugly plump spinster who longs for a happily ever after, the unapologetic rake who has some unresolved mommy issues, there is the evil vixen lover, the funny best friend sidekick, there is even a makeover. It has all of that but not really, all this clichés are presented in a way that makes them fresh, the evil vixen is not really evil, the makeover doesn’t really makes her look much better and by the time it happens our hero has seen past the appearances. The heroine takes charge of things, the hero is instantly charmed by the heroine but their relationship grows slowly. It was refreshing to say the least and by the end of the book I could understand why everyone was charmed by this author.
The leads were both very likeable. The heroine steals the show, but I think that Gabriel was the perfect match for her. I loved her damned the torpedoes attitude, and I loved that he was both charmed and scandalized by her actions. The secondary characters were also good. Callie’s little sister, Gabriel’s twin brother Nick. Then there is Juliana, she is Nick and Gabriel’s Italian half-sister, she was just a joy to read.
The only thing that bothered me was the final big misunderstanding, it didn’t last long but I think that since the book had such an interesting take on a very old plot, it could have done without the very old plot devise. Of course you see it coming, but I was hoping that they will deal with it in a different way, maybe just communicating and being honest with each other.
The other thing that I noticed after reading the second book was that the sex scenes were basically the same ones, is like Sarah used the exact same mold for each book. The last book fortunately is different, but I suppose that is because is the heroine doing the corrupting of the hero and not the other way around.
Overall the book was wonderful, if you like your historicals a bit lighthearted, without much drama and very hot, this book will be perfect for you. I liked it very much, and as you might tell after reading my review, once I finished it, I went and bough the other two books. I not only recommend this book, but the other two as well. You won’t regret it. This is a case of well-deserved reputation.
Review by Brie
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...
Avon. March 30, 2011.