The very first Loretta Chase's book I've ever read, I found it just as memorable and lovely this second time round. But Mirabel is his good match and their intelligence, sharp bantering and amusing self-deprecation infuse some extra bite and sensuality to what in truth is a very sweet and heart-warming love story. Pervaded by gentle humour, with some light and occasional farcical touches too, it's one of the romances best showcasing Loretta Chase's unique and sophisticated take on the Regency sub-genre, where the sparkle and mood are to be found in the multiple folds of the narration and in the exquisite stylistic choices.
The Right Honorable Edward Junius Carsington, Earl of Hargate, is worried about his 3rd son, 29-year-old Baffle to All Human Understanding, the Honorable Alistair Carsington. Miss Mirabel Oldridge, the 31-year-old spinster daughter of the largest landowner in Derbyshire, is strongly opposed to Lord Gordnor's canal - and she isn't shy to state her position when she meets Alistair. Even though she's "a mere woman" and has no vote in the matter, Alistair's sense of honor demands that he seek her approval because, due to her father's absentness, she is the actual manager of the Oldridge estate. Unfortunately, she refuses to explain why she's so set against Lord Gordnor's canal, telling him that that would give Alistair an unfair advantage in the negotiations, so he's given no other choice than to spend time with her in order to extract, understand and counteract her reasoning. Given the premise of the book, I expected the confrontation between Alistair and Mirabel to be the primary focus of the story. Even though I wasn't Mirabel's biggest fan, I enjoyed her interactions with Alistair, loved their easy banter and, especially, the way Alistair was driven to distraction by Mirabel's lack of fashion sense. Too bad Mirabel wasn't as wonderful as promised by the title.
I should like to gather my rosebuds before the petals shrivel up and fall off." Really, this book ought to have been titled MISTER Wonderful, because its hero, Alastair Carsington is an absolute dreamboat. At twenty-nine, Alastair has cost his father, the Earl of Hargate, a small fortune over the years because of a number of episodes of stupidity (all of them because of his tendency to fall in love too easily), and has, ever since his return from Waterloo two years earlier, lived a highly extravagant lifestyle for which the earl has been footing the bill. He and his closest friend, Lord Gordmor, are partners in a canal-building venture that has hit a snag in the form of Lord Oldridge, whose opposition to their scheme could see their plans come to naught and their finances ruined. Mirabel Oldridge is thirty-one, opinionated, determined and, as Alastair is soon to discover, a formidable adversary. Given Alastairs notoriety as a war hero and his status as a highly eligible bachelor and the son of an earl, all the other families of standing in the area (especially those with unmarried daughters!) have welcomed him with open arms, their previously voiced resistance now melting away. Having experienced love when she was younger, but given it up in order to care for her father and his estate, she is more or less resigned to her spinsterish existence, until Alastair Carsington comes along and turns her world upside down. Knowing of his tendency to fall in love at the drop of a hat, Alastair isnt especially surprised with himself when hes attracted to the lovely yet atrociously dressed Miss Oldridge.
Mirabel Oldridge - First 25%, "a little prickly, but we'll see where this prickliness comes from." From 25-75%, "WHAT A BITCH!" Last 25%, okay...that was a big turnaround, but I guess it works? I mean, the canal was their big fighting point, but I kept wondering where our characters' priorities lay, (view spoiler)especially when Mirabel was fighting tooth and nail to keep the canal out of her property...even when it wouldn't have disturbed the property overmuch...and all this time, Alistair has already declared himself and it's like option a = "keep my property pristine" or option b = "be hugged, kissed, and loved for the rest of my life." I mean, is that really a question? She ends up seeing it this way 75% into the story, but GAW, she was such a heartless bitch and schemer until that point (hide spoiler)
It's always nice to have a good experience as my first book of the new year. I liked that Chase made this feel natural and fit the time period by giving her plenty adequate reason for being in her situation and more or less content there. And Alistair is just so sweet (in a completely masculine way) that I couldn't help rooting for him even when I didn't want him to succeed (in tearing up the countryside). Having him two years younger than Mirabel was a surprise (and completely atypical) but it worked and worked well. And Mirabel and Alistair are both mature and compatible in every important way. Having Mirabel, whose outfits were chosen to be unshapely and unattractive, wear corsets was completely out of character and more than a little jarring.
It was there that she met a video producer who inspired her to write novels and marry him. Under her married name, Loretta Chase, has been publishing historical romance novels since 1987.