Avon Impulse, $3.99 ISBN 978-0-06-230485-8
Historical Romance, 2014
Lucian Dorlingsley, Viscount Asquith and the heir of an Earldom, is in love. Okay, he hasn’t even talked to her yet, but he only has to see her once before hearing beautiful love songs inside his head. Unfortunately, he soon learns from his friend that Bianca Mansfield will not marry unless her elder sister Kate ties the knot first. Apparently, it’s a rule laid down by the Mansfield family, and Kate shows no sign of even having a beau yet. With Kate’s shrewish temperament, it may take a while before she has one. And Lucian doesn’t want to wait forever to be his love.
“That sounded ridiculous, impossible, and positively Shakespearean.”
Sabrina Darby is pretty open about the inspiration behind this novella, Woo’d in Haste. Just like in The Taming of the Shrew, Lucian poses as a tutor to get closer to Bianca, although in this case, he’s the tutor of Bianca’s younger brother Thomas. Unlike in the play, Lucian is Bianca’s only suitor, and it is even remarked at least once in this story, and acknowledged by Bianca herself, that there is a strong element of infatuation – as opposed to love – in this relationship because Lucian is basically the first guy Bianca spends a considerable amount of time with. What will happen when Bianca discovers Lucian’s true identity?
Lucian comes off as a bit dim, because the guy doesn’t know when to spill the beans, doing so at the worst time possible. But I feel that this clueless behavior is part and parcel of his character: Lucian is pretty idealistic when it comes to love, and somewhat naïve when it comes to life in general. He fancies himself worldly because he has seen the Continent during his tour, but there is something about him that… well, he’s more of a bard than a rake. He knows philosophical literature, teaches boys pretty well, and woos Bianca with tender words and romantic gestures. He’s so… my first boyfriend material, which is something I think I’d come across more often in the romance genre, but actually don’t. Alternately shy and showy when it comes to wooing Bianca, Lucian is pretty adorable.
Bianca has never really left her father’s home in the country, but she seems more mature than Lucian at times. She privately resents the fact that her father kowtows to her sister in everything because the man just wants to avoid messy confrontations at home and wishes that she could somehow find a way to live life on her own terms. Right now, everything in her life is decided by someone else, and she is becoming tired of this. At the same time, she shows some glimmers of self awareness now and then that her “true love” with Lucian must just be a first crush thing, her attraction to him may be as much about him being a way for her to rebel against her family as much as it is about him being cute and hot like some guy from the neighborhood Target store. I especially like how, after her first few seconds of vexation upon discovering Lucian’s true identity, she becomes adorably pragmatic about him and her.
Woo’d in Haste has all the limitations of the novella format: the pace is rushed, the ending lacks typical closure (no big weddings – but perhaps that’s for the sequel, as Kate’s story is next), and the romance can seem superficial. But I like the way the two lovebirds get all cute-dumb on me in their love story, and there is something adorable about the way her more practical ways complement his more whimsical nature perfectly. Even if this is just a crush, I think they’d still be alright together once the infatuation fades a bit when she discovers that his breath smells in the morning or he learns that she hogs all the sheets in bed, because they do seem to like one another.
So yes, this one gets two thumbs up from me. Woo’d in Haste is a fun, frothy, and easy quick read that just breezes through and leaves behind what seems like little heart-shaped clouds in my head, and I can’t help but to be captivated by it.