Dear Ms. Milan:
This book in the hands of a lesser author would have been a wallbanger and I might have quit halfway in. I’m glad I stuck with the book however because some very interesting things were being done in the story and while I didn’t fully embrace different aspects, I still thought this was a very compelling read.
Jane Fairfield has a boatload of money but she does not want to marry until her sister is of majority. Until that time her sister is under the guardianship of their uncle who, in his ignorance, inflicts terrible experiments on her sister to treat her sister’s seizure ailments.
To make herself undesirable despite her huge fortune, Jane has made it her business to dress awfully and to speak in an artless insulting manner. Jane is actually a little mean in her interactions with others always assuming men are there to court her for her money. For instance when she first meets Oliver, she treats him as if he is no better than a foot man and called him ordinary and insults him repeatedly. Oliver is upset at first but then sees through her façade.
“I beg your pardon.” He found himself standing just a little taller, looking at her with a hint of frost in his expression.
“Oh, no need to beg my anything,” she said with a smile. “You can’t help your looks, I’m sure. I would never hold them against you.” She nodded at him, as graciously as a queen, as if she were doing him a tremendous favor. And then she frowned. “I’m so sorry, but would you repeat your name again?”
Oliver gave her his stiffest bow. “Mr. Oliver Marshall. At your service.” Don’t take that literally, he almost added.
Her eyes widened. “Oliver. Were you named, perchance, after Oliver Cromwell?”
Jane’s behavior has made her a target of a powerful Marquess who agrees to help Oliver’s political ambitions if Oliver will humiliate Jane. Oliver is a bastard and he has suffered his own slights throughout his life. His goal is to achieve power in the form of being a Prime Minister so that he can step on the necks of those who have wronged him. Oliver’s ambition for power is not matched quite by his actions. He is good at reading people but he lacks problem-solving abilities. He has no solution for the conundrum that he is in. He likes Jane and does not want to hurt her and yet he also desires power.
Oliver as is far from a typical romance hero as you can get almost to the point where he is no hero at all. He is driven too much by his own ambition and fear that I often wondered if he was the equal of the magnificent Jane. Throughout the story, when heroism is called for, Oliver acts small. Even the nephew of the Marquess acts with more courage than Oliver. This is Oliver’s redemptive arc, though. He must learn to find his courage and overcome his own ambitions in order to be able to find his HEA with Jane.
Without Jane, the story would not have worked at all. She is smart, witty, and capable. If Oliver ever does achieve any success it will be due to Jane’s actions. But he is not her equal. Whenever there was a time for Jane to act big, she met the challenge. When she was faced with a conundrum that called for her to sacrifice her principles or forge a better path, she figured out a way to forge the better path. Except in one major instance. If Jane had so much disposable income, why did she not just carry off her sister and travel abroad until the sister became of majority? That seemed to be a much easier task than insulting people and dressing horribly.
There is a sweet secondary romance but it proceeded too quick for my taste. Once I accepted that the couple were going to be in love, everything that happened after was marvelous.
While I believed that Jane loved Oliver and that she wanted him, I wasn’t necessarily convinced that he deserved her and that she couldn’t have done far better. I purchased this book on my own even though it was available via NetGalley for free. I felt like I should appreciate this story more than I did. B-