Not Quite a Lady fit the typical parameters of my search for something new to read:
- A trade paperback in my local public library’s romance section
- I recognized the author’s name and it had a positive association (for the life of me I can’t remember if I have ever read anything by Chase before, hence this blog! Must remember what I read! Before I lose my marbles!)
- The back cover summary seemed interesting (I say seemed because many times these blurbs are loosely related to what is in-between the covers)
- It even has a “non-clinch” cover! If I am 90% learning towards getting a book based on #1-3, a cover like this makes it 100%. The steaminess was saved for the setback, which is the image just inside the cover flap, and is safely hidden from view. Hidden until I proudly hand the librarian my innocent looking book to check out, when she flips open the front cover to stamp the return date, right on the heaving bosom of a recently ripped bodice being fondled by a man whose breeches and shiny boots look so tight they must been painted on. Then my heart clenches, sweat immediately forms down my spine, ruining my business casual outfit for the day since I went on my lunch break, and I quickly look away, trying to disassociate myself from the lurid picture. Damn setback image! Surprising me like that! I thought I was tricking the librarian!
But I digress, overall it was a super enjoyable read, ranking a B+ for me personally. See below for my review starting with the publisher’s summary:
Darius Carsington is a spectacularly handsome rake with a rare intelligence and no heart, a man who divides his time between bedding loose-moraled women and writing scholarly papers. He finds society’s “perfect darlings”….exceedingly boring. But there’s something intriguing, and not quite perfect, about faultless Lady Charlotte Hayward. He senses a crack under her polished surface, and finding it is a temptation he can’t resist.
Lady Charlotte is so beautiful, charming, and gracious that no one has noticed what an expert she is at Not Getting Married. Early on, she learned a painful lesson about trust….and temptation. In the years since, she’s devoted her life to all she ought to be–and she’s not about to let a man like Carsington entice her to do everything she shouldn’t.
A SPLENDID COLLISION
But the laws of attraction can easily overpower the rules of manners and morals, and sometimes even the best -behaved girl has to follow her instincts, even if it means risking it all.
Reading Not Quite A Lady was super enjoyable on many levels. Loretta Chase’s writing style drew me into Charlotte and Darius’ story and kept me in a willing suspension of disbelief for almost the entire book. I was comfortable with the short prologue and brief flashbacks to share the background of Charlotte’s fall from grace as a 16 year old and subsequent baby she gave up for adoption. This appeals to me as opposed to having a chapter or more devoted to her relationship with Geordie, when what I really care about is her relationship with Darius.
In Historical Romance Land it is very unusual for the heroine to have “intimate experience” with men prior to meeting the Hero, and usually I prefer that they don’t. BUT if they have slept with a man before they better have a gosh-darn good reason. I felt Chase’s explanation for why a gently-bred, well brought up, lady of Quality, would abandon all her morals to be pretty fair.
I also like the set up of Darius’ character – scientific approach to life, has to prove himself to his father, distinguish himself from his highly regarded brothers, bookish…A number of building blocks that shut in his feelings, and we know Charlotte is the key to break down that wall!
Charlotte doesn’t want to get married so that way no one will ever find out she is no longer a virgin. Pretty weird and unlikely that she would get away with that, right? Well she became an expert at “Not Getting Married.” I just wish Chase had written more examples of how Charlotte has accomplished this for 8 years after her debut into Polite Society! There is maybe a page or two devoted to her techniques but I would have liked to hear about her past adventures, how smart she was to come up with these techniques, and then in the present tense part of the story foiling bachelor’s advances in front of Darius, just so I could appreciate how fabulous she is a little bit more.
One scene in particular that got me all overheated was when they made love in the laundry room. The dialogue at the beginning was flirtatious, playful, showed each other they cared in little ways, and the sex was not only hot, but had funny/awkward bits which made it more real. And THEN, the BEST part, Darius said “I love you” as they cuddled afterwards, and even more surprisingly Charlotte said it back RIGHT AWAY. This was very confusing as it was only page 286 out of 350.
The grand mutual declaration of love in romance novels almost ALWAYS comes at the very end, the format 99% of the time is that one of them admits they love the other but the other refuses to admit it (even thought they secretly luuurve the other and brood about it all the time) until the end when they ‘fess up, grovel, apologize, and spout poetry.
So I thought to myself, what is going to happen in the next 75 pages? The main “problem” has been resolved, they love each other!!! Well there was that secret baby thing from earlier, and a guy who wants Charlotte for himself named Colonel Morell and he knows about the secret baby…
But I care about the declaration of mutual love so much more! The HEA is the best part, leaving me with a happy glow, contented with the world, sometimes hugging the book to my chest for a minute before placing it back on the shelf and even humming in satisfaction for a while.
Instead I just kept that glow on for the final 75 pages. *Spoiler Alert* I thought Colonel Morrell had the makings of a super evil villain and turned every page expecting Charlotte to be abducted, the secret baby already on a ship to the ends of the earth, and maybe have some punishing kisses inflicted on her so she could reflect that only Darius truly stirred her blood, before the latter came charging to her rescue just as the last traces of her petticoats were about to be torn away. Instead Colonel Morrell was just a nice guy who had a misguided sense of justice, but caused absolutely zero harm.
When Colonel Morrell and Charlotte were riding alone, he told her he knew about the secret baby and asked her to marry him, she firmly rejected him and rode away unscathed. The secret baby (now 10) was not kidnapped and conveniently turned up on Charlotte’s family’s property that afternoon, and everyone lived happily ever after. It was a little anti-climatic, but the emotion Chase evoked in each of the characters as we feel how they have developed and how they all came together was very touching and the perfect way for every romance novel to end.
I would 100% recommend this book, and already checked out Chase’s backlist and hope to read her other works soon!