Jonathan Redmond is the youngest of the Redmond sons. His eldest brother is missing, off doing God knows what (but rumours suggest it may be piracy). His brother Miles is a famous explorer, disowned by their father because he married someone the powerful Isaiah Redmond didn't approve of. Miles wants to be an investor, and would like his father's help to invest in a printing business specialising prints. His father coldly dismisses his ideas, and reveals that he sees his son as little more than a pretty face and an irresponsible rake. He claims Jonathan needs to settle down with a wife in the next six months, or he's going to cut off his allowance.
Jonathan doesn't really feel that his rakish reputation is deserved. Young eligible women keep throwing themselves at him, because of his looks, family name and connections. They keep misinterpreting things he says while dancing with them as promises, and suffer broken hearts when he doesn't court them. Determined to prove his father wrong, Jonathan needs to find fellow investors elsewhere. He finds an unlikely one in Thomasina de Ballesteros, a beautiful young woman driving the young men of London to distraction. Her mother was a famous courtesan, and now she charms gentlemen at exclusive salons. No one knows that in the evenings, she risks her life rescuing children from ruthless employers and finding them new and better homes. In return for supplying Jonathan with funds to start up the coloured printing business, Tommy (yes, I hate the nickname, but got used to it as the book went on) ropes Jonathan into helping her on a couple of rescue missions.
While both acknowledging the other person's attractiveness, neither Jonathan nor Tommy are initially in any way romantically interested in the other. Tommy is fending off young gentlemen by the dozens, not really wanting to become some man's mistress, and Jonathan needs to find himself a high-born and suitable wife, or risk being ostracised and cut off by his father, just like his brother Miles. As they spend more time together, of course their friendship develops into more. It wouldn't be a historical romance otherwise.
Gripes I had with this book: I hate the shade of green of (presumably) Tommy's dress on the cover. It's a virulent, toxic green. I'm glad I own the book as an e-copy, so I don't have to actually look at it.
- I don't like that the heroine is, in effect, called Tommy. I think male nicknames for female characters are dumb. It annoyed me less the further into the book I got, though, I think my brain just started substituting it with Tammy, or something.
Things I really enjoyed: Pretty much everything else. When Julie Anne Long isn't on form, she still writes a pretty decent romance. In this case, she wrote a tremendously entertaining and very good one. It may have helped that I had very low expectations to the book, as Jonathan has been such a non-entity in previous books, even as a supporting character. Hence I underestimated him, just like his father, and most of the world, clearly does in this book. Jonathan is not just handsome, he's brave, and loyal, and incredibly smart, and clearly a very shrewd investor and businessman. He sets out to prove his father wrong, and succeeds brilliantly.
Tommy was an interesting character too. While her quest to rescue disadvantaged servant children may seem a bit futile (after all, if they got one child from the work house and tricked them into years of horrible servitude or factory work, won't they just get another one when the first kid is taken away?), it's still better than doing nothing, and the fact that she's frequently risking her life to get them out shows a bravery that not many romance heroines possess. She also desperately wants to connect with her father, a man she's only heard about from her mother's stories.
I liked that Jonathan and Tommy became genuine friends first, before their feelings developed into romantic love. I liked Jonathan's relationship with his sister, Violet, and his determination to make a name and fortune for himself, not just to live off the funds from his family. While What I Did for a Duke is still my favourite of Long's novels, this may well be my second favourite. Well worth a read.
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