So this is basic Regency plot number one. Tortured and unlovable hero – check. Spirited and independent heroine – check. Unredeemed rake – check. Determined spinster – check. True love conquers all – check. Evil sidekick – check. Reluctant marriage – check. Hero becomes besotted pussy cat – check. And instalust – check, check, check. So we all know how this one goes.
There are no mysteries at all in the underlying plot, and the hero and heroine are such over the top caricatures turned up to eleven that it’s almost off-putting. I don’t mind a bit of exaggeration for effect, but the Marquess of Dain, the hero, is so grotesque in both looks and behaviour that it’s hard to imagine what anyone would see in him. But Jessica Trent, our heroine, isn’t just anyone. She’s a highly intelligent bluestocking, and beautiful, naturally. And somehow she falls in lust with Dain at first sight.
So far, so unbelievable. But what saves this book totally is the dialogue, which is not just witty but downright clever. The two are drawn together by that animal passion that exists largely between the covers of books, where they just cannot keep their hands off each other, and as they fight their attraction and also spar to best each other, their behaviour and battles of words grow increasingly outrageous. I have to say I enjoyed this part of the book enormously, and laughed out loud at some of the crazy things they said and did to each other. I never knew what was coming next.
By the middle of the book, when they decide to get married, things go off the boil somewhat, and much of the later difficulties could have been resolved if the two had just sat down and talked it over. The subplots are pretty silly, too, and the nonsensical ending and rapid transformation of the snarling and bitter hero into a rational and loving human being keep it to four stars.