I know that I say this at the beginning of every historical romance review, but I really do need to make more time to get out of that YA drama and delve back in to this amazing stories. Truly, I’m going to find a way to remind myself that, I’ll set a monthly alarm if necessary.
The Lady Most Willing starts off as comical as possible. A Scottish laird with 2 unwed nephews decides to take matters into his own hands by kidnapping the county’s most eligible maidens and holding them somewhat hostage until his nephews are forced to marry one of them. In doing so, he also accidentally naps a Duke as well, and the chaos ensues pretty rapidly upon arrive at Finovair Castle. Knowing that this is a romance going it, we know that the three males will end up engaged to/married to three of the of the four ladies by the end of this, so let’s introduce the cast, shall we?
Firstly, you have John Shevington, Duke Of Bretton who is rather pissed when he realizes that while he wandered out of the ball he was attending in search of a nap in his carry, he was inadvertently taken hostage while his carriage was hijack to transport the ladies. Knowing he must marry well, but not yet ready to do so, he’s lead a leisurely life so far. Then Catriona Burns catches his eye and he begins to think that marrying someone in his station would be a foolish thing indeed when he could make Catriona his Duchess.
Then you have Byron Wotton, Early of Oakley who is a stickler for propriety. From an early age, his father ingrained in him the need to follow all of society’s rules and NEVER bring dishonor to his family’s name. So when he becomes attracted to Fiona Chisholm, a Scot with a reputation of a whore all cross the country, he begins to think that maybe, just maybe, a lady’s reputation may not be the most important thing about her.
Robert Parles, Comte de Rocheforte, Robin to his friends, is never going to be in the marriage mart. He is penniless and every ounce a rake who knows he has nothing to offer a woman and has endeavored never to want any more from one than the pleasure of a few nightly visits. So when the English heiress Lady Cecily Tarleton steps out of the Duke’s carriage, he is enraptured and he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can never have her, he pulls away and spends most of the time hiding until he realizes that she might want him enough to forgive his lack of fortune.
The last lady is Marilla Chisholm. She has only one goal in her life, to marry well. She’s pretty as a picture with buttery curls and bright eyes and she has her sights set on the Duke, then the Earl, and lastly the Comte but when all three end up in another woman’s arms, despite her best attempts to gain their attention, she is at her wits end with frustration. Why would any of them choose another lady over her? Annoy and very determined, Marilla was probably my least favorite character.
Then who can forget the kidnapping uncle? Taran Ferguson is a fifty two year old widower with no sons of his own. He’s grandson, Robin (the Frenchie one, as he would say) is to inherit his castle after he dies and he’s determined to make sure Robin marries well before then. Kidnapping isn’t as grave an offense and they think and one way or another, he has resolved to force their hands if necessary. He’s probably my favorite character. His antics were every bit as outlandish as you can imagine and somehow he’s lovable anyway.
Typically, I eschew anthologies, especially in romance novels, because I feel like they don’t give the characters enough time (or page space) to truly develop and despite the fact that this is a novel, it is essentially an anthology, with a third of the novel dedicated to each of the three couples. However, I couldn’t resist this one because I adore everything Julia Quinn writes (as well as Eloisa James) so I make a point to read anything her name is attached to. It really exceeded my expectations. Even though each story was shorter than I would have preferred, they all felt very thought out and fully formed, allowing each character to develop a believable love for their coordinating partner. As with everything Julia writes, this has a lot of humor. I think that is what I miss the most when I read YA, the humor. Julia’s (and Eloisa, and I’m sure some of it was Connie as well) manages to balance that witty humor with heartfelt romance and steamy sex scenes in such a seamless way that you never doubt it. It was absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
****Thank you to Avon for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****