Overall, don't get me wrong, I think this is a fine book and a good read with a strong female character who isn't just about finding love or helping 'her man'. It's one of James' strongest writing traits.
After I discovered Lisa Kleypas, I found I didn't like James' work as much - typically because of glaring errors, grammar issues, plot discontinuities and so forth. However, I generally like her plot lines better than Kleypas' and some of her works are favorites of mine. This is not one of them. It doesn't have any glaring plot discontinuities (save one) or grammar errors, or historical mis-facts, in fact, it's probably one of her better endeavors on those fronts. The reason I didn't like it that well was that I really didn't deeply like the heroine or the hero in this. Ward (Edward) was a jerk and actually far different than he'd been portrayed in an earlier work. Eugenia (sp?) was OK and you felt sorry for her, and she was smart, but frankly, she seemed a little boring,perhaps because James' was focusing too much on trying to make you feel sorry for her. And I guess, as a result, I didn't buy the automatic heat between the two, or find funny or charming moments funny or charming (as I think I was supposed to).
Also, the writing style (perhaps because I think Kleypas is a master at it and James fails by comparison) just didn't seem that enticing or entertaining or even luxuriously descriptive. In fact, it seemed kind of flat - save for her attempts to describe how various foods tasted. And I didn't find the 50 shades of grey joke funny either, though I guess I was supposed to. Overall, I became irritated by much of the work.
What I did like included the children and near the end, the brief appearances of Villiers (him & her), Strange (him & her) and Beaumont. In fact, I think our heroine was quite mature at times, seeing her situation as a growth experience and found I would have preferred her to run off with Beaumont's son instead - or at least wish that perhaps the story should have had her being wooed by both men. That was when it seemed to really gain traction with me, and because very dynamic.
And yes, James' did make another of her famous plot faux pas. She brought Lisette's mother back to life, the same mother who was deceased in an earlier novel. Someone must have pointed it out to her before press time, because there's an added summary at the end where she says she brought "someone" back to life...trying to imply she did it on purpose, but somehow I think it was just another of her plot discontinuities showing up again. I have had thoughts that perhaps her novels are written by committee, by 'her team' and that perhaps is one reason they've often been uneven in the past. This one wasn't uneven, but to my (perhaps jaundiced) eyes, it seemed too flat, character and general plot-wise - though I did enjoy the descriptions of pastries and the children's mischievousness.
I think readers will enjoy it for the most part. It has definite good points and easy readability and a good plot with generally good characterization. Her characters are often more dynamic and independent vs Kleypas (whose women often are very passive helpmates rather than proactive doers).
It may not be the best of her work (by my standards only, of course) but it's dynamic, with a strong female character, and an interesting peek at women that were more than just helpmates or out to find love with some 'rake.'
A new Eloisa James book is always cause for celebration, and this one is no exception. While fans who have read her previous Desperate Duchesses series will likely appreciate this the most (both hero and heroine appeared in that series as children), all historical romance fans will enjoy James' usual sharp, witty dialogue and spirited interactions between her leading man and lady. By the end of the book, I wanted to shake the hero for being such a jerk and totally thought the heroine should have made him grovel more, but that's a minor quibble, because this was a super fun read.
LOVED IT. First romance in months that has kept my attention. She is a lady, but strong. He is a smart man with family values. Refreshing!
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