The Luckiest Lady in London is a frustrating book, but not because it’s bad. Sherry Thomas is an almost ridiculously good writer. The book is frustrating because the conflict takes over the book. I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy while I was reading it, or when it was over. I felt distressed, and frustrated and worried, and I never did believe the happy ending.
Felix, a Marquess, has made himself into a paragon of all things wonderful. Although he charms the ton, he has promised himself never to fall in love with anyone. Louisa is the only woman in London who distrusts Felix’ façade – and of course she is therefore the one woman he wants to have. That is, basically, the whole plot.
Sherry Thomas has a knack for creating powerful conflicts but a consistent problem with getting them resolved, and this book has the worst conflict of all because no external force or influence can resolve it. Felix is so horrified at the realization that he has fallen in love with Louisa that he gives her all kinds of confusing signals and at one moment treats her with absolutely unforgivable emotional cruelty. I’m not past that moment, as a reader. I don’t believe Louisa is past it, as a character. I think Sherry Thomas made Louisa get past it. At one point Felix has a convenient epiphany and completely changes his entire personality to make up for his actions, and Louisa refuses to believe that this is genuine until the book is bout to end, so she suddenly has her own epiphany and now they are happy. Nope, not buying it.
By any standards, there are some technical problems here with how the story plays out – mainly, it’s arbitrary and rushed. But I have to admit that I have no personal trigger greater than the idea of someone treating another person with great warmth and then suddenly, with no warning or explanation, becoming utterly cold, while maintaining that nothing is wrong. Felix withdraws all affection from Louisa, suddenly treats her as a contemptible object, and refuses to acknowledge that he is doing it or tell her why. It’s awful, utterly awful.
In more general terms, I’m getting a little tired of the “my parents were mean to me so I’m a jerk” thing. This has been so overused that an author has to really sell it for it to work. I’ve had great sympathy with many wounded characters in fiction, some quite recently, but with regard to Felix, I just wanted him to get over it already. Something about the hyper specific and totally inflexible way his trauma manifested just didn’t feel believable – it was too tidy, in terms of being clearly custom made to suit a plot.
Now, the good stuff – Sherry Thomas has a history of beautiful writing and this book is no exception. Her use of language is lovely without being affected. Her characters are layered and interesting. I loved that Louisa will do a great deal to help her family, but that she draws the line at outright martyrdom. She’s practical, and willing to cut through tons of drama simply by accepting at least the possibility of marrying “below” her class if necessary, although she is not willing to marry someone with whom she knows she will be deeply unhappy.
The dialogue is a delight. One of my favorite tropes in romance and romantic comedy is the two people who are intellectual equals in a battle of wits. When Louisa and Felix are verbally sparring, the book is fun and sexy and smart. And clearly, I cared about the characters, or I wouldn’t have been so tense about their fate.
Some books are good books that are extra enjoyable because they hit one of my emotional buttons. Some books that are good books in technical terms completely fail to give me “good book sigh” because they hit triggers instead. The Luckiest Lady in London is proving to be my least favorite Sherry Thomas book because it hits my emotional triggers in the wrong way. The fear of someone suddenly switching their personality, that abrupt and total withdrawal of love and even of recognition, is so terrifying to me, personally, that I found the book to be laden with dread and, in some places, almost unbearable. If this is not a huge trigger for you, then I think you’ll have a very different experience with the book although I do think the ending is somewhat abrupt by any standards.