by Loretta Chase, historical (2007)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-123123-0
Loretta Chase's Not Quite A Lady is an utter bore. I know, it's hard to imagine how a book by this author could be boring but that's what this book is. This book feels only half-baked with the other half made up of recycled plot devices lifted from the author's previous books. Loretta Chase's most successful book is Lord Of Scoundrels so perhaps it is not too surprising if I compare this book to that one and find this one so much more lacking because there are similar Secret Baby and Rake Hero Who Prefers Whores plot elements in these two books to warrant the comparison.
Darius Carsington is a nerd who also sleeps with too many whores for his own good. Under any circumstances, a nerd who studies animal husbandry and is also a hunky rake could be a nice hero but here, I just sigh because the author has written so many oversexed rake heroes that a genuine nerd would have been a nice change indeed. His father is understandably upset that Darius is spending time watching animals copulating when he's not copulating with ladybirds so he challenges Darius to turn a family property into a profitable one within a year. If Darius fails to do so, the Earl of Hargate will see that his directionless son is married and responsibly shackled and Darius will comply without protest. Darius, needless to say, is determined to win this challenge.
His neighbor turns out to have a daughter named Charlotte Hayward. Ten years ago, she was seduced by a rake who eventually died in a duel. This ill-advised tryst resulted in a child that she, her stepmother, and a maid ferried off to someone who would raise the kid all the while keeping this a secret from Charlotte's father. This father turns out to be a rather absent-minded person so I suppose it is possible to hide a pregnancy from him. At any rate, Charlotte now decides that she will never get married because she doesn't want the husband to learn of her secret shame. She also refuses to be seduced ever again because of the "damage" she has done to the people around her.
Now, I don't know what damage she is talking about since her stepmother doesn't actually suffer much from helping her. But Charlotte naturally insists that because she forced her stepmother to keep a secret from her husband, this is a Terrible Sin and therefore she is determined to punish herself for all eternity. It is apparently isn't enough that Charlotte feels guilty for giving away that kid of hers, she also has to peg some far-fetched "my sin has truly damaging consequences to ones I love" drama so that she will positively glow on the cross she has nailed herself onto.
Needless to say, she will spend much of the story punishing herself and declaring that she is not worthy of love, even as she allows the hero amazing liberties with her body before I can blink twice and go, "Huh?" The end result is Charlotte coming off as a ridiculously weak-willed twit who prefers to lose control and have fun playing the martyr to the weaknesses of her body rather than to actually take up proactive steps not to repeat her mistake. Needless to say, she comes off as horrifically dim at times.
As for Darius, there isn't much to say about him other than he is a watered-down amalgamation of better-written heroes that this author has done in the past. His insistence on not believing in love even as his brothers are happily married, however, makes all those claims that he is an intelligent man most suspect. I'm impressed though by his ability to apparently "sniff out" Charlotte's "experience" despite her stand-offish attitude. I personally suspect that he's actually smelling Charlotte's personal hygiene issues.
The plot meanders on and on with Charlotte happily embarking on melodramatic self-flagellation when she's not happily grunting and groaning under Darius like the paragon of self-control that she is. The secret brat makes an appearance in such a remarkable stroke of coincidence that I frankly would prefer if an UFO shows up and returns this kid to Charlotte because at least that development is merely illogical rather than ridiculous and smacking of contrivance. The secret brat, needless to say, gives Charlotte another excuse to hang on to the cross of hers.
Not Quite A Lady is well-written and would probably please especially readers who are new to this author, but frankly, this one has one too many contrived and unoriginal plot device and the characters really annoy me to no end. Not Quite A Lady is really not quite up to the author's usual standard.
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