Well wasn't this a surprise!
I have to say this was really enjoyable and it made me miss Eloisa James's writing. I miss this series! I went into this with very low expectations and part of it was because of the low ratings this received and one review in particular that completely turned me away from reading this. I usually try not to let reviews/ratings sway my decision on a book but it happened here unfortunately. I blame it on my 'spring cleaning' of my towering to-read shelf.lol EJ is the very first historical romance author I read and she wrote the wonderful Pleasure trilogy which I loved so much so I do feel a sense of loyalty to her. She has her moments of eccentricities in her writing style and sometimes silly characters and plots, but still she can write wonderfully beautiful in-depth stories with endearing characters, witty brilliant dialogue with a ton of angst thrown in there.
I will be honest the first few chapters of this I struggled to get into and it didn't seem very promising. The heroine Olivia wasn't winning me over with her snarky indifferent personality while her twin sister Georgiana kept fussing and scolding over her poor manners. It got tiring. And their parents were no better with their self-serving deluded ways (forcing your daughter to have sex with her betrothed to ensure a possible heir if he doesn't return from war...are you serious?? disgusting). Olivia and Georgie's twittering jokes over Rupert's limp celery episode was in poor taste and made me wish EJ didn't go there but it was all in good fun and not meant to be mean. As the story progressed my opinion changed about Olivia. I started to understand Olivia and come to love her and she isn't as indifferent and careless as others peg her for. I fell hard for the hero Tarquin 'Quin' real quick. I was expecting a brooding indifferent jerk but he surprised me (I'd still like to know when exactly Quin was a 'jerk' in this story?). He broke and melted my heart. He's incredibly intelligent, has a surprisingly great sense of humor and very tender passionate vulnerable heart. And oh yeah, excuse my girly moment but he's drop dead gorgeous! :D LOVED him! While I don't mind love-triangles, I was leery and nervous over the set up in here. The duke falling in love with a woman who's already betrothed to be married and also happens to be the sister of the woman his mother plans for him to possibly marry. I loved this couple so much and their story was very enthralling.
This book needs to be given more credit than deserved IMO. Let me get this out because there are quite a few misconceptions about this book that I feel needs clearing up after reading a few reviews on here. First of all, the hero Quin absolutely does NOT
have Asperger's syndrome or made fun of like one reviewer vehemently accuses James of doing and is what originally turned me away from reading this. The only 'difficulty' Quin suffers is struggling to read others emotions and sometimes putting his thoughts into words, which anyone healthy or otherwise, suffers on a daily basis. That is not an ailment IMO and the author never describes him as having one. Quin is perfectly fine and acts like any quiet grieving man would act. As for Rupert, Olivia's 18 year old fiance, he's described as having social difficulties and very emotional, he's labeled as being mentally handicapped something he apparently suffered when he was born. His traits could be *similar* to Autism but it's never pin pointed and it's definitely NOT Asperger's. So I have to ask the reviewer what the hell they are talking about??! Cause I saw none of that in this book. To each his/her own but I like to call out bull when I read it and the author supposedly making fun of someone with Asperger's syndrome in this story is pure fiction and a load of bullshit if I may be frank. I even googled Asperger's syndrome to see if it was something I missed and none of that was in this book. In fact, Rupert's personality and how he behaves is the exact opposite of AS. Also, this is set in the 1800s so if you expect aristocratic England society to be so accepting, knowledgable or advanced medically of learning disabilities or handicapped of any kind that's not accurate or realistic. I went into this expecting the worse, a selfish cruel heroine poking fun of a mentally-handicapped man and I saw none of that in here. The only ones who maligned Rupert are those who didn't know him.
As for Olivia and how she treats Rupert? She was his champion through most of this book. She protects his name, encourages his poetry, faces down others including a stuanchy Doweger who insults him, takes care of his dog Lucy, and goes all the way to France to save him and nearly dies while doing so. What part of this is considered cruel or selfish? That's quite brave and selfless in my book. And I have to point out none of her actions were out of obligation, she vehemently refuses to leave Rupert alone in France and insists on going all the way there with or without Quin. She genuinely seemed to care, love and worry for him. I don't know what readers expect from this girl, she made some tasteless jokes in the beginning and is labeled as a cruel selfish heroine. I disagree with that completely. She had some growing up to do and she does plenty of it in here. And as for "stealing" her sister's fiance, considering the fact that Georgie and Quin were never
betrothed or even courting to begin with and Georgie gives her sister her blessing to go after the man she loves, there was no stealing to be had in here like some reviewers keep insisting. Georgie tells Olivia point blank she doesn't have feelings for Quin and pushes her sister to go after him. The few times Quin confronts Olivia and pleads with her to let him court & woo her, she turns him down putting her sister's feelings and Rupert's ahead of her own wishes so again, I saw nothing of a selfish heroine in this. She was willing to sacrifice her own happiness for her sister and Quin respected her wishes. He too felt guilt ridden for falling for a woman who is already betrothed and feels he owes something to Rupert.
This whole situation could have painted both the hero and heroine in a not-so-favorable light but James handled it beautifully. There is a lot of angst, longing, guilt shared between the two so I can't label this couple as selfish or careless. Not even close. But that's just me. I went into this with a somewhat skewed negative perception given all the comments and low ratings I saw on here and was amazed with what I got. A lonely duke who isolated himself after losing his wife and young child and believes he can never love again and doesn't have the capacity for it. A beautiful incredibly insecure woman who loves her sister more than anything and hides behind silly jokes and naughty limericks and thinks she's the 'imperfect' fat twin.
I call out characters when they act a' fool and neither of these two were. They were very open and honest from the very start with each other, no games, no lies or tricks. Honest, open and up front from the start. I was surprised with how playful, affectionate and passionate (my damn) Quin was with Olivia. *fans self* Wooh! He made me melt. Olivia clearly made him happy and he wanted so very badly be with her. For a mathematical genius who's supposedly not good with words (I beg to differ), he's quite the romantic. They fell for each other quite easily and openly and tried very hard to fight it out of respect for other parties involved.
I generally like to go into books with a clear head and no preconceived ideas of what to expect and I always like to be 100% honest when leaving reviews whether it's an absolute favorite author of mine, or a new author to me. It goes without saying (or repeating in this case) that this book is highly underrated book in Eloisa James's Fairy Tale series. She is not for everyone, like I said before she has her own eccentric style of writing that works in some cases and in others not so much. You never know what to expect from her which is part of the reason why I can never give up reading her work, her characters are one of a kind and far from conventional HR characters. Her characters and stories are always colorful and very unique and I've always admired that. I enjoyed this book so thoroughly and was charmed by every aspect of it. I didn't want it to end.
And this bares repeating: The author does not
in any part of this book disparage or make fun of a character who is mentally handicapped and there is no character in here that can be labeled as having Asperger's. It's a skewed false statement to make. In fact Rupert is the hero of the story who both Olivia and Quin go to a great deal to bring back home like the war hero he is. So I guess I fail to understand what was so incredibly awful about these two or the story. I'm guess I'm in the minority on this one. :P