I was drawn to it because the hero is a scientist, and you guys know how I am about scientist heroes (I married one). I was kept enthralled by the characters, the dialogue, and the joy of reading something so flawlessly constructed and so full of humor, angst, joy, and tenderness.
Like No Other Lover is a Regency romance involving Cynthia, a woman who is desperate to marry a wealthy husband, fast, as she is almost literally penniless; and Miles, a scientist who is looking for money for his next trip to the tropics. Miles doesn’t fit the usual geeky scientist stereotype. He’s not geeky at all – he’s very buff and socially adept and quite a hit with the ladies. Cynthia begins the book as a queen of the social season, but by the time the story properly begins she is broke and under the cloud of scandal.
Miles and Cynthia meet at a house party that Miles is (reluctantly) hosting. They strike up a tenuous, somewhat hostile alliance when Miles explains to Cynthia that he knows she is looking for a husband, and he is not available. He has to marry Georgina (poor, poor Georgina…how I hope she has a happy ending in some sequel) because his father wants him too, and because Georgina’s father will help pay for Miles’ next expedition. Hilarity ensues as Cynthia charms a succession of men, and heartbreak ensues as Miles and Cynthia fall more and more hopelessly in love with one another, knowing that they cannot be together (more on this later).
At first, I was a little disappointed by the characters. Miles, I thought, wasn’t really much of a scientist character. He was just some Regency romance hottie like any other Regency romance hottie. But as the book progresses, the way he thinks becomes very important, and the way we know he and Cynthia belong together is that she thinks in a similar way. Cynthia doesn’t have a previous interest in science, but when Miles talks about the natural world, she becomes fascinated. They both share a scientists’ skill at careful observation, logical thought, and an appreciation of the smallest details in nature. Look at this beautiful passage:
And she went still, breathless with a rush of understanding: she suddenly saw that Miles Redmond saw the world as little worlds within worlds. Everything – spiders, people, plants that ate animals – were both separate and connected, living the intricacies and beauties and violence of life, woven together like a web.
And this, too, was why, even when he was quiet, when he was still, he seemed to contain worlds. To feel vast.
Because everything matters, he’d said.
There are a couple of things that I look for in a romance. One is that the characters recognize each other, in the sense that they see each other truly, and they show each other how amazing they are while accepting one another’s faults. Another is that the characters make one another better. Both elements are central to this book. Watching Cynthia and Miles grow as individuals, encouraged by each other, was truly delightful. Cynthia, in particular, was simply a joy to read about. When she did something unexpected near the end of the book, I let out an audible cheer (which was awkward, because I was in public). And Miles is so very determined NOT to grow that watching him grow despite himself made me feel, frankly, a little smug. And goodness gracious, but the sex is very…well, my mom reads my reviews so I’ll just assume my most prim expression and state that the sex scenes are well written.
I have one problem with the book, and it is this: there is a lot of time devoted to explaining why Miles and Cynthia shouldn’t get together, but it is, frankly, stupid. Miles won’t marry Cynthia because he wants the funding for his next expedition. To get the funding, he has to marry someone else. There is a larger threat that he could be financially cut off entirely, but the main obstacle that is brought up again and again is that Miles needs to marry Georgina to get the funding for his next trip. But Miles says at the very beginning of the book that he is confident that he could have secured financial backing on his own – it just would have taken longer. Then at the end, he’s all, “I can totally marry Cynthia! Because I can get financial backing on my own – it will just take longer!” Here’s Cynthia, being awesome, when Miles judges her for trying to make a mercenary marriage (at this point she has five shillings left):
I know what you think of me, Miles. I know what you – have thought of me. But I have a heart. I do have a heart. I just cannot afford to use it. Don’t you see? Why can’t you see this? Whereas you – may play at all of this as much as you like. There will always be someone for you. And that is the difference: I cannot afford to use my heart. And you – you choose not to use yours.
If I were pressed at gunpoint to come up with other flaws, I'd say that until I wrote this review I hadn't noticed that the author is fond of italics, but she is. Also I've had the Beatle's song “Something in the Way She Moves” stuck in my head for two weeks and I'm getting tired of it.
This book is part of a series, and it’s the only one I’ve read, although I am desperate to read the one about Miles’s sister Violet. Seriously – Can. Not. Wait. I didn’t have trouble jumping into the series at this point but there were a lot of references to family drama that evidentially happened in the first book. If it bothers you to have a lot of references whiz past your head, then I suggest starting with Book One, The Perils of Pleasure. A later book, What I Did For a Duke, was a Sizzling Book Club pick back in October of 2012. I missed it then, but rest assured I’ll be reading it now.