Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-8363-5
Historical Romance, 2016
George, the Marquess of Marylewick, is the most prim and proper blue-blooded folk you will ever know, despite the rather suggestive title of his if you have a dirty mind. He looks into the matters of his tenants, ponders over political matters that need his attention, tend to his family members, and then, at the end of the day, slips between his satin sheets and enjoys the latest installment of everyone’s favorite racy serial Colette and the Sultan. Mind you, he’s proud of the fact that he’s been a fan on day one, long before the rest of the Ton decided that it would be fashionable to adore this serial. And in his private moments, the Marquess wishes that Colette is real and he’d marry her and they would live happily ever after.
Colette is so different from the thorn in his side, Lilith Dahlgreen. Their relationship is rather tortuous – Lilith was a step-niece of sorts in the family, ditched by her mother when that woman decided that Lilith would only be a blight to her new marriage, and the clan ends up treating Lilith to this very day as the thing that would probably go away if they ignore her as much as they could.
Now, George is the one in charge of the money that is passed on to Lilith, and he is vexed that she is spending the money on sponsoring artists and generally making a spectacle of herself acting like a bohemian. He gets very tight-fisted with the purse strings – for her own good, of course – and she only retaliates by being even more outrageous. All this could only end with a kiss and lots of awkwardness on everyone’s part, naturally.
But things come to a head when Lilith’s so-called family ditch her and left her with the creditors baying for their money, forcing George to step in to clean up the mess. He demands that Lilith would now clean up her act and become a proper lady, so that he can see her married off and be someone else’s responsibility. As you can imagine, she doesn’t take to orders too well and proceeds to win over a chunk of his family members as well as his heart until he’s completely ensnared by her wiles.
Don’t get too excited by the synopsis, though. The true story here, and it’s a tragedy, is how I am at first convinced that How to Impress a Marquess is a five oogie read, only to have me revise my opinion as I turn the pages, to the point that I am desperate to give this book one oogie by the time I reach the last page. The first third or so of the book is fantastic. The two main characters are so antagonistic, and yet, their attraction to one another is so palpable, this one has me smiling from ear to ear as those two seem to be so adorable together. Their relationship is a bit farcical in how melodramatic those two can be in everything they say and do, but I’m certain that this would only lead to great firework displays right ahead.
Unfortunately, I soon realize that, while George is a strongly drawn character, Lilith is basically whatever the author wants her to be at any given moment. So, that dear can be petulant and childish in one scene, and then bewilderingly sage and wise in the next. How did she come to be so smart, so talented, so amazing in everything that is required of her in any given scene? I’ve no idea, but I have a strong feeling that everything is pulled out from the author’s svelte and beautiful behind as the whim strikes her.
This becomes a big problem when Lilith realizes that George being who and what he is was due to how his abusive control freak parents broke him (and his siblings), and then she immediately morphs from defiant diva to this bizarre thing who constantly prattles that she must somehow convince George to discover his inner artist again. She also practically throws herself at him, as if by shagging him she’d change him into this sensitive artist she has envisioned him to be in her mind. Why is she doing this? Is she that hard up an art groupie that she’d practically ruin herself just to get a taste of bohemian hippie pee-pee? If I want to be cynical, I’d say that she certainly couldn’t do better than a bohemian dipstick who has lots of money, but she leaves him in the end, so it’s not like pragmatism is the deciding factor behind her pimping herself out like that. Speaking of that leaving thing, her love is also very selfish in nature: only when she is finally convinced that George has made himself to what she wants her to be that she decides that they can be together. This doesn’t bode well for their happily ever after if you ask me, as Lilith doesn’t seem capable of both giving and taking.
Indeed, throughout the entire story, Lilith’s increasingly vapid determination to break convention becomes annoying. She has no common sense; she doesn’t even want to blend in, she is just I’M BREAKING ALL THE RULES AND YOU SHOULD TOO IF YOU WANT MY LOVE, WOO-HOO while everyone else around her scramble to clean up her mess. Lilith doesn’t care if other people she claims to care about are humiliated or lose their chance to fit in with Society, because she never has to be held accountable for her nonsense – other people, like George, are always stepping in, only to be lectured by her on how they too should be free and unorthodox like her. In other words, Lilith isn’t a sophisticated, intelligent lady who breaks the rules; she’s just an immature prat stomping and pouting while pretending to be more streetsmart than she actually is, and it is actually her privileged station in society, which she claims to disdain, that is actually protecting her from facing the music of her actions.
By the time How to Impress a Marquess ends, I feel so sorry for George as he’s in love with a childish dingbat, and I wish the author had pulled a stunt of her own and has Lilith fatally run over by a carriage or something. This one goes from a five oogie read to a one oogie one over 300-plus pages, so I suppose I should be fair and give this book a score that is the average of five and one. But damn it, the early parts are so good that it only cuts me deep when this one turns out to be such a turd, so I’m deducting one oogie out of spite.