by Deborah Raleigh, historical (2007)
Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-8217-7857-9
Some Like It Brazen is really too outrageously fun for words. Deborah Raleigh has created a most adorable couple in Edward Sinclair the Farmer Earl and spoiled Lady Bianca. At first I have my doubts about the Ice Princess since she's supposed to be 24 when she acts like a teenage girl, but her growing up is part of the author's master plan so everything turns out to be most adorably fine in the end.
The plot is pretty basic and simple. Lady Bianca, angry that her father the Duke of Lockharte has thwarted her relationship with a fortune hunter, decides to pay attention to the new pariah in town, the Farmer Earl, just to spite her father. Edward is called the Farmer Earl because he is a landowner who is happily managing his farms when he finds himself the new Earl of Harrington since the late Earl's heirs all conveniently croaked until he's the only one left down the line. Naturally, he is viewed by the Ton more of a joke than a peer. Edward wants to use his newfound power to press for reforms for his tenants and all, so flirting with the spoiled daughter of the powerful Duke of Lockharte may not be the smartest thing to do. But some things, when they happen, they happen, you know what I mean?
There are no spies, thieves, murderers, crazy ex-mistresses, or anything of that sort here, just plain old-fashioned happy courtship. I strongly suspect that some readers will not like the liberties taken by the author in the plot - often Bianca manages to run away with Edward as if she's a modern-day young lady sneaking out of the house to make out with her boyfriend in the backseat of his car. Bianca's freedom of movement is probably too much for a rich heiress of her time. However, I have too much fun to care.
"Bianca, return to me this moment," her father commanded, for all the world as if she were his faithful hound.
That was precisely all that was needed to goad Bianca beyond the point of reason.
Without further ado, she stepped indecently close to the gentleman before audaciously smiling into his hazel eyes.
"I wish you to know that you are soon to be my husband."
There was a strangled groan from behind Bianca as her father fled either in fury or horror.
Or more likely a combination of both.
A flare of satisfaction at having bested the Duke at his own game raced through her.
Later she would excuse her behavior as that of a madwoman. A stark raving lunatic. At the moment, however, she was too enwrapped in her childish need to strike out to care.
A smug smile had just begun to curve on her lips when, without warning, strong arms lashed about her waist and hauled her against a granite-hard chest.
Startled, she opened her lips to protest the shocking treatment. A breath too late as her words were smothered by a pair of warm, wickedly talented lips.
The kiss seared through her body.
Her toes curled, and the protest died a swift death.
Part of the fun of this story is the fact that the two characters are really into their time together. Bianca is a spoiled rich girl but she's not a stupid one. She is intelligent enough to know when she is wrong and not repeat her mistakes, for one. This is one heroine who does not sleep with the hero under some ridiculous "just one night to remember for the rest of my life" nonsense or under some pretense of scientific study. When Bianca sleeps with Edward, she is aware of what she is getting into. In short, she is not some heroine who is swept into a sexual relationship with the hero because she has to to save the world or something. She also enjoys bantering and flirting with Edward, which makes the whole thing they have even more entertaining to follow. After all, two happy people really into each other without weird hang-ups or baggages to bog things down - what's not to like?
Edward starts out a most wonderful hero - almost too perfect at times, as he is a gentleman, Prince Charming, and My First Perfect Boyfriend action figure all in one. There are some attempts by him to help Bianca see "the real world" - an experience which opens Bianca's eyes and actually fires her up in unexpected ways - but he comes off as respectful boyfriend rather than a patronizing father figure.
It was rather refreshing to be treated as if she possessed the sense and ability to deal with such hard truths, even if they were bound to give her nightmares.
"No. Indeed, you were right," she conceded with a rueful smile. "I did not realize..."
"The misery of those poor people."
"Ah." He regarded her with open curiosity. "And now that you do?"
That was the rub, of course. It was one thing to realize that something needed to be done. And quite another to know how to do it.
"I shall... well, I am not entirely certain, but I shall do something."
A slow, rather mysterious smile curved his lips. "I do not doubt for a moment that you will."
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Now you are just patronizing me. You think me a spoiled henwit."
He gave a shake of his head, his hand lifting to gently cup her cheek.
"No, I think you a dangerously determined young lady who could very well alter the world if she wished to do so."
By the way, Bianca makes good on her words to do something, so she's not someone who is all talk but no action.
There is one big issue I have with this story - the last quarter or so of the story when Edward becomes an ass and starts behaving out of character to judge Bianca wrongly. However, this could be due to bridal jitters, I suppose, and the conflict doesn't last too long since Bianca is never the one to let anyone walk all over her back. However, that and a rather melodramatic climatic moment straight out of a Hallmark movie drag this story down considerably. It will be better if the story ends with the wedding instead of having some contrived conflicts pop up after the big day to prolong the story.
However, for the most part Some Like It Brazen is a most adorable story as the two main characters play each other off beautifully. Bianca grows up, gets her man, and gets her happy ending in such an unapologetically determined manner that I can't help but to root for that rascally minx. Fans of Loretta Chase and Julia Quinn may want to take a look at this one.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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