I had the strangest reaction to this book. On the one hand, I really liked the voice and the interaction between the characters. On the other, I hated, loathed really, the setup and the silly situations in which the characters were placed to evoke conflict.
Gabriel Thurston Devine, the seventh duke of Wolverest, decides to hold a house party that will end with a ball announcing the engagement of his brother, Tristan, to some young society miss. Seven young society misses were invited to the house party to "audition" for the bride position. I kept thinking of Willy Wonka and the Charlie Factory and envisioned 7 Veruca Salt characters stamping their feet as their father’s whipped through a number of candy bars to find the gold invite. Gabriel makes the deal with Tristan to beget the next generation of Wolverest’s because he was desirous of a perfect woman and knew that none existed.
The seventh, Madelyn Haywood, a niece of a baron who has a reputation for mishaps, does not want to be invited as she has no interest in any of the Wolverests. She scampers out of the ballroom and into the gardens in an attempt to evade the bearer of the invitation. Gabriel sees this interaction and goes down to the gardens to deliver the invitation himself. The main thrust of the book that this guy who demands perfection falls in love with the least perfect society girl is a fun one, but the execution relied on such ridiculous happenstances.
For example, when Madelyn first arrives at Gabriel’s estate, her hat blows off because she takes it off outside which apparently a society miss does not do. Then the wind carries Madelyn’s hat off and she chases after it, showing"her shapely calves, not to mention her knees." Another time, Madelyn is climbing out of her bedroom window using tied sheets as a rope during the middle of the day with her skirts rucked up and pinned into pants, showing more of her body to all and sundry.
But each time I was ready to give a big huff and put the book down, I got caught up with the writing itself. Madelyn, when she wasn’t forced to do crazy things, was really likeable. She had a tart tongue and a good mind.
Charlotte raised a skeptical brow before reading aloud. “His favorite color is red; his favorite fruit is strawberries-” Charlotte paused, her nose scrunched up as she squinted to read the next line. “- his favorite flower is the ‘Papodee-‘no, oh goodness I’ve forgotten the pronunciation. The Pahippo-‘no, that doesn’t sound right either- Oh! I’ve got it. The Paphiopedilum orchid.” Looking mightily pleased, Charlotte smiled briefly to herself, then her pale brows knitted in thought. “Whatever do you suppose that looks like?”
“I have no idea,” Madelyn commented with a grimace as she tried in vain to find a more comfortable sitting position. “But I’m willing to wager five young women will be wearing them in their hair at dinner this evening.”
Gabriel was a bit insufferable, but what do you expect from a duke? I particularly liked Gabriel’s sister and her romance with Lord Rothbury which must be the subject of a future book. Lord Rothbury doesn’t particularly like Gabriel and Gabriel doesn’t particularly like Rothbury. In fact, I pretty much liked anyone who gave Gabriel a hard time. I know I’ll read another book, I just hope that it’s not so filled with slap-stick antics. C+