Courtney Milan is an auto-buy author for me, but though I enjoyed ‘The Heiress Effect’ and ‘The Countess Conspiracy’, neither book made me foam at the mouth or squee like ‘The Duchess War’ or ‘A Kiss for Midwinter’. So I opened this one cautiously.
But oh! Oh, this book. I *loved* this book. Maybe it helps that Free, the heroine, espouses so many of my deeply held beliefs. In the hands of lesser writers, I’ve seen feminist heroines come off priggish and preachy. Free is as dedicated to women’s rights as any character I’ve ever read, but Milan doesn’t fall into the trap of using her feminist beliefs in place of a personality. Free is witty and real and flawed, and I loved her for it.
As for the hero, how refreshing. Usually heroes with hidden dark pasts turn out instead to have hidden off-white pasts. But Edward is a man who has done extremely questionable things to survive. Unlike many a romantic hero before him, he doesn’t fall into a pit of despair as a result; he acknowledges his character flaws and gets on with things. If he has a choice, he prefers to do the right thing, but ultimately he’s a pragmatist who doesn’t spend time brooding manfully about the past.
The rapport between hero and heroine is there from page one. They’re both fast-talkers in a screwball-comedy-from-the-1930s way (but with English accents), and when I wasn’t laughing out-loud, I was smiling like a fool. Oh, except for during the brother-sister stuff with Free and Robert, which made me cry.
Laughing *and* crying? Come on; there is no better recommendation than that.
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