While this book was not quite as wonderful for me as the second book in the series, The Devilish Montague, it did have a lovely charm to it—especially when I reminisce about the hero. Once again the author dabbles in a Marriage-of-Convenience (MOC) plotline (or maybe I should say she dabbles in it for the first time, since I read them out of order?) and manages to turn my expectations on their ear again. In The Devilish Montague the author had the hero and heroine completely satisfied with their MOC. There were no tears or regrets, and I found it wonderfully refreshing. Here, the author has the hero and heroine engage in a MOC that is extremely inconvenient. Neither of them is the best (or most convenient) solution for the other, but they don’t care because at least they’ll be together. Sounds more like a love match, eh? 🙂
I had a few issues with the heroine in the beginning of the book, but I was pleased that they eventually smoothed out. I am not a fan of heroines that come off as the-bestest-mothering-figure-in-the-world-let-me-tell-you-how-you’re-doing-it-wrong, and that was my early impression of Abby. During the scene where she ends up meeting Fitz, she actually directs his daughter (who he is chasing after she bolts) to go into her kitchen and get a treat from the cook because he dad won’t find her in there. All because she thought he was handling the situation wrong and wanted to give him a set down. I mean, who does that?? That’s not your kid and you don’t even know these people! Yet you tell the little girl to continue running from her dad and to go into your house? It did not endear her to me.
I loathe people who think it’s their right to butt into any given situation because they assume their way is better. I’m not denying Fitz was floundering, but it wasn’t her business. Luckily, that air about the heroine died down. She was still motherly, but it had a more natural feel to it, and she didn’t have that smug/condescending attitude anymore.
The real star of the book was Fitz. I didn’t dislike Abby at all, but she never really resonated with me. I enjoyed whenever she was in a scene, though, because Fitz just lit up. He was such a great character. He was insecure about his lack of formal education and was very aware of his dismal prospects as a spouse, but he never wallowed. He was always willing to push forward into a new situation and gamble that it would turn out right. He wasn’t foolhardy or reckless, but he was not one to sit around waiting for the heavens to align and perfection to fall into his lap. He made his own destiny.
The tone of the book is light and fun, but it never felt fluffy. The more we get to know Abby and Fitz, the more we see the hidden depths in them. They are more than just a loving older sister and a wicked gambler. They have hopes and dreams and feel buried under the hopeless situations they find themselves in. Even before they fall in love, they find themselves falling into a strong friendship with each other, which is just what they needed. Their personalities complement each other nicely, and you can really see why they fell in love with each other.
She threw her hands around his neck, and he eagerly sought her mouth, and she remembered very distinctly why she had agreed to this insane marriage that would never ever work. It evidently had nothing to do with good sense and everything to do with lust and friendship and her utter adoration of this man who had come to her rescue. And a modicum of convenience.
I enjoyed getting to backtrack and see a look at the characters and friendships from Fitz’s point of view. I have to admit that I liked Lady Bell and Lord Quentin better in The Devilish Montague, though. I did enjoy getting to see them first meet, but they seemed warmer there and less driven by their own machinations than they did here.
What I really loved about this book was how it avoided conforming to Romance standards. Abby and Fitz were poor and it showed. Their lack of funds was not something easily solved, included only to add temporary tension. They genuinely worried about how they would make ends meet and occasionally had to get creative to make it work. And things weren’t magically solved in the end–gasp! Added to that, Rice once again kept us out of the ton, even though the hero is an earl. It was refreshing and I enjoyed it.
Thank you for the lovely gift of this book, Sophia. Reading it made me smile.
“We are not all of us born heroes, I fear. Women expect us to be wealthy and well-mannered and sophisticated. To be witty and thoughtful and honest. To be tender to children, loving to spouses and parents, and tough to bullies. Veritable saints, but…” He slanted her a look. “Pardon my bluntness, but women also expect us to be exciting, mysterious devils in the bedroom. Perhaps a contradiction?”