Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-124782-8
Historical Romance, 2011
Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway are three of the better historical romance authors out there at the moment. You are free to disagree with me on this, but you have to admit – The Lady Most Likely… is definitely not lacking in star power. Mere mortals need not worry about any resulting apocalypse or something like that when these three authors collaborate on a story, though. As collaborative romance novel efforts tend to be, the result is actually quite unexceptional.
This one is marketed as a novel in three parts, but it’s pretty much an anthology of three stories, set in a house party in Finchley Manor. Carolyn Dunne, the Marchioness of Finley, throws the party in order to help her brother Hugh Dunne, the Earl of Briarly, find a wife. Hugh’s sole drive, passion, interest, and focus in life is his precious stable of racehorses. A recent accident caused him to realize that he is only mortal, and therefore, he should get himself a wife and an heir or else everything he owns will go to an unpleasant cousin upon his demise. But which woman will become the wife of this rather socially unpolished if hot fellow? Of course, Carolyn has to invite some men to the party as well, so her party makes the perfect setting for three romances to take place.
Julia Quinn takes the reins first and kicks things off with the story of Alec Darlington and Gwendolyn Passmore. Gwen is the undisputed diamond of first water of that Season, the debutante that every man flocks to, and in fact, Carolyn initially assumes that Gwen will be perfect for Hugh. Meanwhile, Alec, a friend of Hugh, is invited to the party along with his sister Octavia. Octavia is wildly jealous of Gwen because Gwen gets all the attention whenever she is in the room, causing mere mortals like Octavia to seethe in the background, all but forgotten. When Alec humors his sister by monopolizing Gwen’s attention and time so that Octavia can get the guys to notice her too, he realizes that he too is not immune to the remarkable beauty of Gwen. Gwen, on her part, only wants to walk in the country, away from the crowd. Oh, her beauty is a burden, because she doesn’t ask for all the attention! She’s thoroughly hateful wench, really, but Julia Quinn manages to make her a charming character regardless.
This story will feel familiar if you are a fan of this author, because it features the same charming chemistry between two likable characters, with humorous banters and men acting like silly boys in love with a woman. But this is a pleasant kind of familiarity, and it is the characters’ chemistry that keeps this otherwise plot-lite story afloat.
Connie Brockway is next with the story of the outspoken Katherine Peyton reunited with her childhood crush Captain Neill Oakes at the party. He walked out of her life to take up a gun and shoot crummy foreigners four years ago, but now that he’s back, can she make him give her his best shot? This one is a good representation of the author’s longer historical stories, only that those longer stories have much more rich plot and characterization. This one isn’t too bad a read, but it suffers from having too many repetitive arguments and banters between the two characters. In a short story, swift and engaging pacing is essential, and that is the vital ingredient that is missing in this story. Also, there is a feeling of discontinuity of sorts as the Hugh in this story comes off as tad surly and uncouth, while the Hugh in Ms Quinn’s story is a more charming fellow who just happens to love his horses very much.
Eloisa James closes the story with Hugh finally realizing that he is in love with his long-time friend, the widowed Georgina Sorrell who naturally claims to never want to marry again. Then again, this story suddenly jumps to Hugh making the moves to Georgina like a randy horny toad that I feel that I am missing big chunks of the story – parts of the story where Hugh goes from being a charming friend to Georgie in Julia Quinn’s story to this sex-mad Hugh who is determined to get into Georgina’s bloomers. This story focuses heavily on building up the story to the grand moment of shagging, but all I can think of while reading this story is how poor Hugh seems to undergo multiple personality changes as he drifts from story to story.
Like most collaborative efforts and anthologies, The Lady Most Likely… is an okay read but it’s hardly a book to make a direct line to in the bookstore. Readers unfamiliar with these authors will get a good idea of what these authors’ longer works are like, but fans of these authors would have read far better efforts from them in the past.