Book Review

The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

C+

Title: The Luckiest Lady in London
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Info: Berkeley November 5, 2013
ISBN: 978-0425268889
Genre: Historical: European

Book The Luckiest Lady in London 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.


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  1. 1
    amybee says:

    I thought the book was fabulous. I’d give it an A and put it on my best of 2013 list. The writing was fantastic, as noted. The resolution totally worked for me. The characters were complicated and their true selves were revealed in such a layered and nuanced way that I completely bought the resolution.

  2. 2
    Heather S says:

    You know, everyone raves about “Private Arrangements” as being a gateway romance novel, but I read it and was totally underwhelmed. I just wanted it to be over. I didn’t like the characters, was bored by the plot, and thought the story was about a hundred pages too long. The reviews I’ve read of her other works (particularly “Tempting the Bride”) are generally tepid – there are things readers like about the books, but there is invariably a list of things they DON’T like, that make the books fail to work for them.

    Still, none of the books I’ve read have hit “unforgivably awful emotional abuse” on the hero’s part for me like “Temptation and Twilight” by Charlotte Featherstone. I actually RANTED over that book; I couldn’t throw it in the “take to book store” bag fast enough. Given that, and the fact that I am unimpressed with Sherry Thomas’ books from the browsing and reading I’ve already done, I won’t be getting this one, either.

  3. 3
    Tabs says:

    I can totally see your point of view, but I had a completely different take on this novel and absolutely adored it.

    I actually loved that there was no external conflict and that the whole story concentrated on the internal conflicts of two complicated people developing a relationship with each other.

    Also, I agree completely that Felix’s actions are abusive and terrible.  I literally gasped out loud at the height of his awfulness.  But I think Thomas had so well established his character that I had no problem understanding why he would react and behave that way and I still believed that he had it in him to sincerely turn himself around and atone.

    And I believed in his atonement.  I actually thought it was one of the best atonements I had read in ages.  I didn’t think he actually became a different person – just the person that we had seen glimpses of but who he had never let his guard down enough to fully embrace.  I bought his turn-around and I loved that the things he did to show his wife he had changed were all about her happiness and not self-serving to his own.

  4. 4
    Cordy says:

    I haven’t finished it (I’m 65%, per Kindle) but I’m really enjoying it. Some things I like: I like that Louisa is cunning and practical, but not a martyr. That is, I like that she saw her family’s problem – someone needs to marry very well or everyone will be destitute – and understood that she’s the only one who can do it, and that she approached this problem as something to be solved if she thought hard enough about what men like (bust improvers (hah), being charming but not TOO charming, enough French to read a menu, etc.). But she isn’t one of those heroines who’s entirely self-denying, either. She seemed very practical and realistic in this way, to me.

    And I really liked that she and the hero have (what seemed to me) to be believable, but very powerful, sexual chemistry. And that neither of them really spent much of the book denying this: they both understood what was happening quite quickly, even if they weren’t necessarily willing to give in to it yet. (I think I was just relieved to find a book where a woman understood “Oh, I am very attracted to this man, I want to have sex with him” and didn’t spend a hundred pages being totally oblivious to her own feelings. )

    And I love that they have what seems to me believable and realistic banter and an intellectual compatibility. I hear you on the “My parents were mean and now I am broken” trope being heavily used, but frankly, I feel like it’s generally done super poorly, to the point where I don’t believe the male character’s pain at all. I didn’t feel that way here.

  5. 5

    I was underwhelmed by this one, although I’ve loved all her other books. Thomas has a knack for setting up really dire situations full of angst, but not here. The lack of an external conflict drove me crazy because I didn’t think the internal conflict was enough to carry the story. (Imagine Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War without the external threat from Captain Stevens.) I didn’t feel like Felix’s childhood justified his behavior, so I spent the last half of the book fuming at him for not just getting over himself already. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more interaction with Louisa’s family; they sounded like fun, and a good subplot with one of the sisters could have helped bolster the conflict.

  6. 6
    LJD says:

    @Heather S
    I didn’t particularly like Private Arrangements either. But I did enjoy Not Quite a Husband.

  7. 7
    CarrieSe says:

    @HeatherS – normally I love Sherry Thomas, although I agree that Private Arrangements isn’t her best work.  His at Night and Not Quite a Husband are great, and I also liked The Fitzhugh Trilogy. 

    Also, I must add that every time the bust improvers are mentioned an angel earns his wings – or ought too.  I LOVED the stuff about the bust improvers.

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