Plot (from avonromance.com)
In London after a two-year exile, Lord Blakeney plans to cut a swathe through the bedchambers of the demimonde. Marriage is not on his agenda, especially to an annoying chit like Minerva Montrose, with her superior attitude and a tendency to get into trouble. And certainly the last man Minerva wants is Blake, a careless wastrel without a thought in his handsome head.
The lights and din of her debutante ball set Minerva’s teeth on edge. Surely a moment’s rest could do no harm . . . until Blake mistakes her for another lady, leaving Minerva’s guests to catch them in a very compromising position. To her horror, the scandal will force them to do the unthinkable: marry. Their mutual loathing blazes into unexpected passion but Blake remains distant, desperate to hide a shameful secret. Minerva’s never been a woman to take things lying down, and she’ll let nothing stop her from winning his trust . . . and his heart.
Things I Loved
Let’s be honest: there are so many ways this story could have gone wrong. An arranged marriage between two people who hate each other? If I hadn’t loved The Wild Marquis and The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton so much, I would have been skeptical.
Blake is the heir to the most politically powerful duke in Britain, but he couldn’t care less for the family tradition. Minerva, on the other hand, lives for politics. She reads pamphlets, attends protests (including one memorable protest during which she was arrested), and aspires to be a political hostess of great renown. Blake’s apathy mystifies her, especially as she realizes that there’s an intelligent mind lurking behind his sportsman’s facade.
But there’s a reason for Blake’s carefully cultivated attitude: he can barely read. The modern reader (or at least this modern reader) realizes almost at once that he appears to have dyslexia, but no one in 19th-century England would have known why it was so difficult for Blake to learn to read–nor would they have any idea of how to help him. He’s hidden it from everyone but his younger sister and a school classmate who’s blackmailing Blake with the secret.
It’s just heartbreaking to see Blake beat himself up for being stupid all of the time, especially around bookish, clever Minerva. He’s so busy trying to hide his secret that he pushes her away, convinced she’ll reject him if she knows the truth. Which, of course, just makes Minerva feel rotten. It makes the moment when the secrets fall away that much more rewarding, however.
Also: espionage, Paris
Blake is kind of a distracted and unfulfilling partner the first few times around, which is weird because he’s not inexperienced (see: his French mistress). I think it was appropriate to the characters’s situation and realistically done, but a bit disappointing nonetheless. It may just be that I prefer the kinds of love stories that end in a happy ending before the wedding to the stories where love grows after marriage.
2 out of 4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance). Proceed with caution if you’re more Georgette Heyer than Ellora’s Cave.