One Night In London
by Caroline Linden, historical (2011)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-202532-6
Lady Francesca Gordon, our heroine, wants to find a good lawyer that will help her gain custody of her sister's daughter, Georgina. You see, she believes that Georgina is being treated like Cinderella by the girl's evil stepmother, and now that Ellen Haywood has gone MIA with her niece, Francesca is frantic with worry. The problem here is that many lawyers dismiss her outright, if they deign to let her make an appointment with them, due to her gender. Finally, she finds a capable lawyer who seems willing to represent her, only to have Edward de Lacey, the second son of the recently deceased Duke of Durham, seize him away from right under her nose for his own case.
Edward needs a lawyer because his father apparently didn't officially divorce his first wife before he married Edward's mother. As the responsible middle son - the eldest son is busy playing the debauched rake with a tortured secret - it is up to him to arrange for a lawyer to look into the matter and protect the family interest when the crap hits the ceiling and the title - and everything that comes with it - ends up being stripped from his brother. However, he also foolishly tells his fiancée of this sorry mess and she blabs to her father. The next morning, the whole sordid tale is splashed on the front page of a popular tabloid. Francesca, seeing a chance to bargain with Edward, steps in and offers her assistance. She knows the owner of the tabloid, so if she can persuade that man to publish a retraction, Edward will help her find a capable lawyer that will help her in her case. The whole thing should have been a neat and tidy business matter, but, of course, their attraction to each other gets in the way.
Francesca and Edward are pretty well-drawn characters. They seem like typical archetypes at first - Francesca is half-Italian so she is naturally impulsive and hot-headed like all Italians are, while Edward is the prim and proper dude - but as the story develops, they have good chemistry and they approach their developing relationship with a refreshing level-headed maturity. There is no silly "You never said you love me, so I'm running away for good!" drama, no long-drawn big misunderstanding, and no weird hang-up about virtue and what not. There are some good scenes here where the characters demonstrate that their feelings for each other are real and solid. All in all, the romance is an enjoyable one to read. The story also offers an unexpected twist when it comes to Francesca's situation, and I like how the author humanizes characters that would have typically turned out to be cackling villains.
However, the story also tends to meander. While the romantic elements are nice to read, they also clash awkwardly with the urgency of the situation faced by our hero and heroine. Francesca's concern for Georgina seems to take a backseat as she becomes more involved with Edward, for example. Edward does not have much difficulty in getting over his broken engagement, and this feels odd considering how early in the story he considers his fiancée his ideal woman. In fact, it seems like Louisa, his fiancée, and Francesca are more concerned over his feelings about the engagement while he personally is more focused on getting into Francesca's bloomers. I suspect that these issues would have been ironed out if the author had more pages to work with. As it is, there are parts of this story that feel rushed, such as Edward's ease when it comes to getting over Louisa, and therefore rather unnatural.
One Night In London, therefore, is a rather uneven book. It has a believable romance featuring well-drawn characters, but there are also elements of this book that do not flow naturally and believably. This is a pretty solid book, I feel, but at the same time, it misses the bullseye due to the reasons I've mentioned.
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