Definitely not as good as the first, but Parker is such an enjoyable writer that I still give it four stars.
Charlotte and Rothbury are a couple of characters we met in 'At the Bride Hunt Ball'. Charlotte is introduced as a mouse who doesn't wear her spectacles because she 'reinvents' herself to go with other people's supposed desires. Rothbury is introduced as a rake with no conscience whatsoever (although his actions belie the other characters' perceptions).
So, I was very interested in the idea of the two of them getting together. It seems like the premise for a typical romance, right? Opposites attract.
But the premise is actually better than that. It seems Rothbury -- the rake who cares nothing for the women with whom he involves himself -- has been secretly in love with mousie Charlotte for years. He's never made a move because she's always fancied herself in love with Tristan -- his best friend. In fact, his bad behavior is partially a result of his unrequited love. Although his upbringing by a seriously despicable father and uncles is the main reason, he apparently has been cultivating this bad image of himself to guard his own heart.
Great setup. I love the idea. The execution -- not so much. It was disorganized. I knew how he felt about Charlotte because I was told that in the exposition. But I didn't see how that started or any of the interactions that led to his being smitten. This is years after the fact and all we get is a vague 'she was always nice, and never judged' kind of thing. Which is lovely, but a flashback would have helped set up the chemistry.
My biggest problem with all of this was Charlotte's POV. She never thought anything about Rothbury except that she should stay away from him. Then suddenly she's forming an alliance in order to get a mild vengeance against Tristan and help Rothbury win Lady Rosalind's (Tristan's sister) heart.
There was fertile ground in the premise but it just wasn't used, I thought. I didn't have any idea where things were going next because it just felt kind of jumbled. The stakes didn't feel all that high to me, either. And then, when there's actual danger, it felt like it was tacked on. Almost like an editor said 'we need something here.'
So why do I give it four stars? Because my harsh criticism is in light of having just read the excellent 'At the Bride Hunt Ball'. You set the bar high and expectations will be what they will be.
I was rooting for this couple. I loved Rothbury and Charlotte and thought they made a very fun couple. I guess one of my main problems was that we didn't get to see a real arc of their romance. We cut ahead three months at one point and there were interactions within that time that probably would have been delightful and founded their relationship in action rather than just exposition.
I have high hopes for Olivia Parker's historical romances. This left me slightly unsatisfied, but she's still one of my newest auto-buys.