by Candice Hern
Amazon Kindle Edition
Rating: * * * * & bonus 1/2 for hilarity
In Brief: Catherine Forsythe and her sister Susannah have been reduced to poverty, so when an invitation to a house party arrives, Catherine knows they must make the most of the opportunity to find wealthy husbands. A certain head gardener at the ducal estate has some different ideas, though….
I Thought: I wasn’t as immediately drawn into the story as I was with The Best Intentions. (It really might be unfair to read the two out of order, and so close together, because The Best Intentions is really one of those rare gems, so I find myself making comparisons.) To me, Catherine seemed a little grasping and hard-hearted, so determined to marry for wealth — at least at first. If more of the sisters’ life had been outlined, I might have had more sympathy; as it was, I had the same impression of her, at the beginning, as our hero does of most women of society.
However, that shortly went away, because Catherine displayed a completely formed personality, with hobbies, interests, and a sense of humor, shortly after arriving at the house party. Her fortune hunting, though, becomes sort of the main bone of contention between her and Stephen, and that aspect of her personality continued to grate on me just a tiny bit. Only a little bit; but that’s why I had to go with 4.5 stars rather than 5. Well, that and Catherine’s perception of her sister as being bubble-headed. It’s not that it’s unrealistic for her to think that way; it just struck me as harsh and perhaps slightly manipulative. Perhaps on a reread I might not think so.
Stephen, our duke, is quite charming. He’s definitely the outdoor type, and he mostly manages to keep his good sense about him through the twists and turns of the plot. He has a tiny bit of angst in his background, but it just serves to make him more real and doesn’t bog down the lighthearted story.
MacDougal, a sort of… expanded butler, provides a good deal of comic relief at the outset as he somehow obtains for Catherine and Susannah everything they might need to present well at a house party. There’s a little foreshadowing here, too, that leads to hilarity later in the book. Aunt Hetty has a good head on her shoulders, as does the dowager duchess. And Miles! I was so pleased that he was quite wonderful in this book as well.
As I have come to expect from Ms. Hern, we again have detailed descriptions of clothing and of the estate, which really serves to establish a sense of time and place without making me feel like I’ve been clubbed over the head with Extraneous Research Facts.
Watching Stephen and Catherine fall in love was such a joy. And it was based on intelligent conversation (at least in part) that actually seemed intelligent! I don’t think I can say much more about the main plot without spoiling the story, but the writing is quick, light and witty. For example, possibly my favorite quote:
As if he hadn’t gone round the bend already, to be skulking in his own shrubbery.
Another keeper from Ms. Hern. I’m so glad I discovered her books, and I’m afraid of what will happen when I run out of them! That they are all available at such a low price for Kindle is wonderful, though I’d like to own printed editions of these someday. I like them that much.