I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by Alissa Baxter, so I wasn’t in the least surprised to find this one right up there at her usual high standard. The title is intriguing right from the start – a lady geologist? Sign me up! And our first view of her, filthy dirty but happy as a grig fossicking on the beach for fossils, confirms that she’s going to be a wonderful, independent-minded heroine. And here comes the earl, darkly brooding and disapproving, to drag her reluctantly to London for the last thing she wants, a season of balls and no fossils.
Now Cassy may be a spirited woman, but she’s also a true Regency lady, so when her protestations fail, off she goes to London to be paraded in the Marriage Mart. She doesn’t intend to marry, and she has enough of a fortune to allow her to do what she wants, but she’s perfectly willing to play her part to please her relations who disapprove of all that fossil-hunting, and think the only proper life for a woman is as a wife and mother. Besides, in London there are all sorts of interesting fossil-related things going on, so she weasels her way into a Geological Society meeting, dressed as a man, where Edward, the brooding, disapproving earl, promptly discovers her.
Despite this rocky start, the two have a common interest in geology (the whole family seem to be geologists, at least the male members), and Cassy’s sparky enough to attract the earl’s attention. Their quick-witted banter is very lively. She’s better company, at any rate, than the usual sort of coquettish young ladies he knows. He needs to marry and produce an heir, so why not? So now we have a woman who doesn’t want to marry at all, and a man who isn’t much bothered but thinks she’ll do, and has no expectation of a refusal. Cue the awkward proposal and a heroine who gives him a piece of her mind, in no uncertain fashion. Go Cassy!
Of course, as it’s quite obvious that these two were made for each other, there’s a long slow slide into love for her, and (surprisingly) a sudden lurch into it for him, or at least a sudden realisation that that’s what’s going on. I would have liked to see his realisation rather than find out after the event, so to speak, but that’s a small point. He’s a rational, analytical sort of man, so a sudden outbreak of emotion wouldn’t really be his style. I know so many men like this, not eloquent, not always very self-aware, but very devoted when they do fall in love.
Cassy is such an easy heroine to root for, a perfect blend of independence and Regency behaviour. Her qualms about marriage were very soundly based and understandable, and to be honest, one wonders why so many Regencies, which are accurate in every other way, have the heroine hurtling into matrimony without a second thought as soon as she sees the hero’s square jaw or shapely thighs. Marriage was a dodgy business for a woman, and needed some serious consideration.
The other characters are pleasant, likable people who want the best for both Cassy and Edward. There are a couple of sub-plots which are resolved rather easily, and a suitably dastardly villain, and although the ending is rather drawn-out, there’s a lovely, romantic second proposal, where Edward finally gets it right, Cassy accepts wholeheartedly and then they go right back to their verbal sparring! Wonderful stuff.
A lovely, very funny, traditional read from an author who has a true sense of the Regency. I would have preferred a little more emotion at moments of high tension, and a little less geology, but that’s just a personal preference. I had the pleasure of reading this as a beta reader, and again as an ARC reader, and loved it both times. Highly recommended. Five stars.