This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Lulu. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Historical Romance category.
Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, is The Ideal Gentleman, a man all men want to be and all women want to possess. Felix himself almost believes this golden image. But underneath is a damaged soul soothed only by public adulation.
Louisa Cantwell needs to marry well to support her sisters. She does not, however, want Lord Wrenworth—though he seems inexplicably interested in her. She mistrusts his outward perfection and the praise he garners everywhere he goes.But when he is the only man to propose at the end of the London season, she reluctantly accepts.
Louisa does not understand her husband's mysterious purposes, but she cannot deny the pleasure her body takes in his touch. Nor can she deny the pull this magnetic man exerts upon her. But does she dare to fall in love with a man so full of dark secrets, anyone of which could devastate her, if she were to get any closer?
And here is Lulu's review:
Sherry Thomas is a master at creating beautiful things from simple ingredients. She begins with rather ordinary themes and characters, in this case a rich man meeting and marrying a poor girl (that’s not a spoiler – it’s announced on page seven. Because I know y’all would have been surprised otherwise. Uh, yeah.) Thomas then adds great dialogue and human frailty, and creates entrancing stories that are completely addictive. I have yet to meet a Sherry Thomas novel that I can put down, leading to much tripping about the house, as dogs and people must still be fed, and rooms tidied up. All of which is hard to do with an iPad in front of your face.
The Luckiest Lady in London begins with young Felix, who is used as an emotional pawn by his mother against her husband. The boy suffers heart-wrenching neglect, as his mother continually chooses to nourish her hatred towards her husband, instead of caring for her child. Felix leaves his childhood emotionally scarred, and determined to never be found lacking again.
“At seventeen, he had become a peer of the realm, one of the richest at that. But just as important, the isolation of his early years afforded him a blank slate on which to create a whole new persona for himself.”
He emerges as the Marquis of Wrenworth, society’s Ideal Gentleman.
Enter Louisa, a 24-year-old entrée to society, who possesses neither wealth nor great beauty, and is one of five daughters of a widow. She must marry money not only for her future, but to ensure care for an epileptic sister. Louisa understands that beauty and wealth are not the only guarantees of a good marriage. Careful observation and study brought about “the Miss Cantwell she presented to Society. She was warm but not overfamiliar, sweet but not cloying, and appreciative of her moment in the sun without the least whiff of graspingness or, worse, desperation”.
Both protagonists present false fronts, projecting what they believe Society deems most acceptable. And both are convinced that, if truly ‘seen’ by another, their intrinsic faults make them wholly unacceptable.
Then they meet and see, if not the full truth, than at least the false social persona of each other. Louisa knows that Felix is the furthest thing from polite, or a perfect gentleman. Felix intuits that while Louisa’s body may be virginal, her thoughts are quite naughty.
So commences an interchange of forward and feint, nuance and coercion. Thomas builds the relationship between Louisa and Felix brilliantly. They are loveable, imperfect creatures brought to life through their actions. We want to know them. And that, at its core, is what Sherry Thomas does so well. She creates characters we love, who engage us in their stories. Which leads to more staggering around the home, ereader in hand. To me, that is the bee’s knees.