Friday 21 November 2014

#CBR6 Book 122: "The Lady Most Willing: A Novel in Three Parts" by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Taran Ferguson has decided that if left to their own devices, his two nephews are never going to get their act together and find suitable brides. So just before Christmas, he takes matters into his own hands, rallies his faithful retainers, rides over to the neighbouring estate where there is a house party at present and kidnaps the three likeliest young women. Only because it's dark and things got rather confusing, they end up with four ladies and one really rather pissed off Duke, who happened to be sleeping in the carriage the drunken Scotsmen stole to transport the kidnapping victims in.

Ferguson's nephews, the Earl of Easton (poetically named Byron) and the Comte de Rocheforte (Robin), who also happens to be Ferguson's heir, are both appalled. There is nothing they can do about returning the ladies, as a terrible snowstorm has ensured that everyone will have to stay put in the ice cold, drafty castle for at least three days until the road has cleared again. So we have a Laird, a Duke, an Earl and a Comte and very conveniently, there are also four young women. Lady Cecily Tarleton is the wealthy and beautiful daughter of the neighbouring estate and Ferguson seems very determined that one of his nephews chose her as a bride, as she comes with a generous dowry and has substantial social standing. She is, however, English. There are also the local heiresses, Fiona and Marilla Chisholm, the former pretty much doomed to become a spinster after her reputation was ruined when her erstwhile fiancee died, falling from her bedroom window (that Fiona had not invited him in the first place, let alone allowed him to touch her inappropriately in any way seems to be irrelevant to the local gossips). She's resigned to her fate by now and has determined to take her money and travel to exotic places. Her younger sister Marilla is terribly spoiled and a shameless flirt, revelling in the opportunity to find herself a titled match due to their sudden abduction. Miss Catriona Burns is the daughter of the local squire, swept up by accident. She knows that she has neither the dowry or the social status appropriate to make any sort of match with the men of the party, so she won't have to make an effort to impress anyone either.

Over the course of the next few days when the couples are trapped, unsurprisingly there are four convenient matches made. Normally, I would be very uncomfortable with the abduction, the forced matchmaking, the not one, not two, but four cases of insta-love that a story like this requires and the huge amounts of disbelief I would need to suspend to fully accept the developments in this story. Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway (who is the only author of the trio whose books I have never read before) are excellent writers, however and because it's such a frothy, silly book that pretty much dares you to scoff at it, it sweeps you off your feet and charms you instead.

Fellow Cannonballer NTE reviewed this back in September, which is what made me remember that I bought it in an e-book sale way back when and had it buried in my Calibre library. Her review (I'm going to be terribly gender stereotyping here and assume that a reader of romance is a woman) made me dig it back out and I read it. It was a very quick read and I pretty much blazed through it. Naturally, because there are eight protagonists of a sort and they all have to fall madly in love with each other while snowed in at a freezing castle in the Scottish Highlands (it may actually be the Lowlands too, but that doesn't sound as fun, somehow), there isn't all that much time for a lot of character development. Each person tends to have one or two defining character traits and they don't muck around for long before falling into each other's arms. I did like how often it was pointed out that Ferguson's castle really was dreadfully drafty, difficult to heat, generally very shabby and not actually equipped to comfortably house so many unexpected guests in the style to which they are generally accustomed. That aspect of the book was very well done. Having enjoyed this book as much as I did, I was delighted to discover that this is actually the second collaboration from the three authors. I think I'm going to have to go seek out The Lady Most Likely as well.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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