Let’s get the plot out of the way first, such as it is. Our heroine is Natalie, the girl who sensibly released the Duke of Cortland from their betrothal in book 1 so that he could marry his true love, Lilly. Now Natalie’s branded a jilt, and confined to the country estate of her parents to rusticate for a while. She’s bored and looking for a little excitement, when into her life wanders unredeemed rake Garrett. There could have been some interesting ways to take a story like this, but sadly the author chose the most obvious and well-worn one, and the first half of the book becomes in essence one long bout of foreplay.
I don’t have any issues with sex in a Regency romance, but it does have to conform to a degree of plausibility. This particular case has a number of problems in that regard. Firstly, Natalie. Having set her up in book 1 as the oh-so-cool and composed ladylike type, suddenly she’s a walking bundle of overwrought emotions, essentially throwing herself at Garrett’s head. Then there’s Garrett himself. He’s old enough and experienced enough to keep himself under control and not respond when the daughter of his host tries, in her innocence, to seduce him. And then there are Natalie’s parents. What on earth are they thinking, not merely to invite an acknowledged rake to a house party with their vulnerable daughter, but to allow them to wander off together unchaperoned and even, at one point, to hint that Garrett might be an acceptable husband for her? It’s unconscionable. It would serve them right if he did what rakes are known for, and got her pregnant.
So the first half of the book is the two finding a dozen different ways to sneak off and be alone, and do some of the things that well-brought-up young ladies shouldn’t even know about. But then the sub-plot kicks in, the book lurches into melodrama and suddenly the author’s talent shines through again, releasing all that soul-searching and emotion that I so enjoyed in the other two books. Now, there are plenty of issues with plausibility in the second half of the book, too, plus all the Americanisms that pepper all these books, but none of that mattered a bit. I got thoroughly swept up in the story, really enjoyed the way the two characters resolved their differences and got very teary-eyed when they got their happy ending. Extra brownie points for knowing the law regarding the earldom, as well. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of five stars for me, but it’s a very good four stars.