I have to admit defeat and give up on this one. I haven’t enjoyed it and am tired of struggling to become interested. I gave it a good go and made it to page 176, but I don’t think it’s going to get any better.
The hero, James, comes to visit his fiancée, Louisa, and ends up getting to spend some time with her stepsister, Julia, while he waits for Louisa to come greet him. He is completely swept away by Julia and is chagrined to realize that he is so attracted to his fiancée’s sister. (This is by page 8, by the way) Julia’s charms seemed to be comprised of her nonstop chatter—which tends to border on socially unacceptable since she blurts out whatever is on her mind—and her appetite. This girl eats and eats and eats, sometimes even getting a third plate! The hero finds it adorable how flustered she gets after looking at her plate and realizing she’s ate it all. She also loves to have her younger sisters and brothers around (and kids in general), which seems indicate that she’s nicer and more down to earth than any other woman in the book. I mean, who else would take the time to crouch down and talk to the hero’s nieces on their level? Who else would go to a dinner party and ask that the children be allowed to stay so she can play with them? <–sarcasm
Julia drives a lot of the zanier aspects of the book. The other characters, except James and Julia’s aunt, tend to fade into the background, acting the straight man to Julia’s schtick. I think the author was going for something cute and funny, à la Katie MacAlister’s Noble Intentions, but it didn’t work for me. There has to be something more than just ridiculous situations and silly characters to make something funny. It just came off as irritating and ridiculous to me. If you read a sample of this book and find it funny, you’ll probably end up enjoying this more a lot more than I did. I could see what the author was trying to do, but for me it fell flat. The first chapter was incredibly silly and cutesy and that, unfortunately, set the tone for the rest of the book.
One thing I found confusing about the book was the way the tone seemed to change. One second it would be silly and the next it would seem like the author was trying to inject some seriousness as she had James struggle with his attraction to Julia and his determination to marry Louisa. The two tones didn’t mesh very well together, unfortunately. They felt out of place next to each other. One thing I appreciated about James was that his attraction to Julia stayed mostly internal. He was very friendly with her and occasionally slipped up by staring at her, but for the most part he didn’t reveal his interest to her whole family. The same could not be said for Julia. She would run up for a hug and then remember herself at the last minute and turn it into a curtsey, making the situation extremely awkward. She would push her sister to spend time with him and volunteer herself to go along as Louisa’s support, strictly to spend time with him. Way to be a crap sister.
Of course this was all made okay by the fact that Louisa was extremely disinterested in marrying. She snapped up James’s offer (I’m not sure why) in no time flat, but resisted any sort of affection from him and didn’t want to set a date for the wedding. You may think she had some compelling reason to resist him. Maybe a man she was pining for? Maybe she was pushed into accepting his offer? Nope. She just didn’t want to get married and leave home. She wanted to stay with her parents and books. That’s why it seems so odd that she would accept James’s offer so quickly. Maybe if the characters would have had more depth it would have been easier to understand some of their actions.
So, obviously this book was not for me. My advice for you is to try a sample. See if her humor works for you. If it does, snatch it up, because you’ll probably enjoy this. But if it doesn’t, I recommend giving this a pass.
P.S. I liked the chapter titles the author included. They reminded me of the Parasol Protectorate books.