Joan Bennet is tired of being a wallflower. Thanks to some deliciously scandalous—and infamous—stories, she has a pretty good idea of what she's missing as a spinster. Is even a short flirtation too much to ask for?
Tristan, Lord Burke, recognizes Joan at once for what she is: trouble. Not only is she his best friend's sister, she always seems to catch him at a disadvantage. The only way he can win an argument is by kissing her senseless. He'd give anything to get her out of her unflattering gowns. But either one of those could cost him his bachelor status, which would be dreadful—wouldn't it?
And here is Mochabean's review:
Picture Han Solo and Princess Leia in a Regency historical, with well-written dialogue and a deliciously meta subplot about an erotic serial pamphlet passed around at balls and hidden in prayer books. There's verbal jousting and sarcasm and all the catnip that is a haters-to-lovers story. There's a “What Not to Wear” subplot and a “This Old House” subplot. There's a balloon ride and a fair lady's heart won via modern plumbing. As an added bonus, my least favorite trope is not there: no catty woman to serve as a foil to the overly sweet heroine. Yay book!
Joan Bennet (heh) meets the disreputable Viscount Tristan Burke when she's sent by her mother to roust her brother's sorry drunk ass out of bed. Tristan is a temporary guest at her brother's house, but his sarcastic and shirtless self is no match for her wits. Soon, he's calling her The Fury in his head and she's calling him Lord Boor to his face. Yeah, you see where this is going. Even as he's criticizing her appalling fashion choices (her mother encourages her to wear the latest fashions, which don't flatter her figure or her height) and she's berating his lack of manners, they are growing more and more intrigued with each other. Throw in some conveniently out of town parents, a fairy godmother aunt with an Italian tailor, and a hilariously hidden copy of a scandalous novel, and you have a near perfect romance.
One of the things that really works here is that Joan and Tristan are both interesting and unique, but not so much so that they become walking tropes themselves. Joan is smart and funny, and speaks her mind, but is still finding the confidence to go beyond the expected. Tristan is roguish enough to shock certain elements of polite society, but he's neither a duke of slut nor the alphahole hero, so it makes complete sense the Joan would fall in love with him, and he with her.
I also love how much fun the author is having playing with the book-within-the-book idea. Joan and her two friends (sisters and sequel bait) are all secretly reading a scandalous periodical called 50 Ways to Sin, which chronicles the amorous exploits of the mysterious “Lady Constance” and her endless parade of skilled lovers. It's like the 50 Shades/Flowers in the Attic/Forever of Regency England, and all the girls are secretly reading it, talking about it, and hiding it from their mothers. But even better, while Tristan and Joan have wonderful chemistry, of course, Tristan is no domineering “now I will transform you with my Magic Wang” hero. He's sweet and considerate and appreciates Joan for all the right reasons.
This is not an angsty book, and there are no huge themes to grapple with. But it is not insubstantial. It's very well-written, charming, and extraordinarily fun to read.
Game of Thrones fan caveat: In the heat of the moment, Tristan says something along the lines of “by all the Gods” which I confess just made me laugh out loud. All I could think of was Joan gasping back “Seven Hells, don't stop!” Your mileage may vary of course.
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