Book 4 of 5 in the Carsington Brothers series
First, let me say that Loretta Chase has always been one of my favorite historical romance writers - her dialogue is consistently humorous and witty and her characters are bright and well-developed. She creates easily memorable characters, which is often hard to do in the whirling world of romance. Her book Not Quite a Lady proved to be of the quality I've come to expect from a Chase.
Darius Carsington is the last eligible son of Lord Hargate - and he intends to stay that way. He has no want of a wife, and is, reputedly, quite the rake. We don't see much of this behavior at all in the book, which is unfortunate - there's only a mention or two of rakish thoughts, let alone actions. In fact, his fascination with Lady Charlotte seems to lead him straight into entertaining thoughts of marriage - something quite un-rakish indeed! If there was one disappointment for me in this book, it was that the man who was so improper and rakish that his grandmother 'hates' him and has a reputation that preceeds him, well, he really didn't live up to expectations. It was the one area of character development that fell flat. He ended up being the more stable, marrying-type from the beginning, it seemed. Even as Chase told us that Darius didn't want to marry, she didn't show us or prove that to be true in any definite way (ah, the dreaded show v. tell problem!). Darius, altogether, had too many morals and too much concern, if I may say so myself. For the author of the best rake ever written (The Lord of Scoundrels), Chase disappointed me with this weak-willed rake-epic-fail.
But, oh, the rest of the book was marvelous! Lady Charlotte, the heroine, is a strong woman who cares deeply for her family and is torn by the loss of her baby boy when she was a teen. She is just the kind of herione I like to see - not weepy, pathetic, or insecure beyond belief with tons of nonsense problems. She's got real problems that lead to her "empty cow look" and emotional distance. It makes sense that she became the Lady Charlotte she is when Darius first meets her - and that is a blessed thing. A character so well-developed, she makes sense to the reader - we can understand her and identify with her and she feels real and human.
Charlotte's best trait is her courage - her decisive courage. By the time we meet her, she has the courage to take the bull - or the man, or the ton as the case may be - by the horns and whip it around and around til it begs for some well-deserved rest and walks away licking its wounds. Her courage also lends itself to her wit and sarcasm. Her courage is what makes her one of my favorite guilt-ridden heroines. It means that, by gads, when the chance for happiness comes along, she takes it! She doesn't wishy-wash her way around, trying to decide between her happiness and some inane sense of guilt, honor, or duty. She takes what she wants and damns the consequence, and it's a blessing to finally find a herione who has overcome her 'all-consuming' guilt without a lot of silly nonsense. She's made her sacrifices, and now she's not living in the past, but taking control of the present.
My favorite part - the little tug-o-war game of control Darius and Charlotte play. And ladies - we definitely win. Poor Mr. Carsington gets his ear talked off by not one, but two, chatty ladies. Neither of which are the lovely Lady Charlotte with whom he wishes to be better acquainted. Indeed, Darius and Charlotte's snipy comments and heated, yet hysterical, encounters lead to a wonderfully fun 'seduceship' instead of a much too proper courtship. And finally, in the end, is one of those sweet, tender scenes between a woman and her child that leave us close to mama-tears (or in them if we're PMSing).
Some favorite quotes:
"I've never seen a viper at Lithby Hall," she (Charlotte) said.
"Vipera talka-lot-icus, Vipera henpeck-us-to-death-icus, Vipera-bankrupt-me-remodeling-my-house-icus." (Darius)
"I am deeply afraid of curtains," he (Darius) said. "I say I want red curtains. You ask whether I mean ccrimson or scarlet. you ask whether I prefer brocade or embroidered. Fringed or unfringed. Then you ask about tassels," he added darkly, "It is a quick route to dementia."
"Sexy"ness Rating: Good, old-fashioned lovin', but still hot!
Overal Rating: B+ to A-
Bottom Line: If you like historicals, Loretta Chase, or fun, bumbling, real romances this is the one for you!!!
Published: April 24, 2007