This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
Lady Sarah Pleinsworth will always hate Hugh Prentice. He has never done anything to her directly but his actions caused her beloved cousin Daniel to be exiled from England for several years. Now that Hugh has fixed that and Daniel is home at last, everyone wants to forgive and forget. Not Sarah, though. Sarah isn't the forgive and forget type. Sarah is determined to hate him for all eternity. So when Honoria assigns Sarah to make Hugh feel welcome at the weddings, she's beyond irritated. Doesn't Honoria know she hates this man? Forced to make nice, she makes it known to Hugh that she doesn't not enjoy this arrangement, but will suffer through it because Honoria asked it of her. The more time she spends with him, though, the more she realizes that maybe she doesn't hate him after all. For his part, Hugh is just as irritated at Lady Sarah. She's loud and dramatic and down right annoying. But the more time he spends in her company, the more he comes to appreciate her hidden wit and think that maybe she isn't as bad as he originally thought. Are these two destined for all head over heels, or will they soon learn that all of their original impressions were spot-on?
Sarah is a character I could clearly understand Hugh's irritation at. She is, in fact, very dramatic. It's even more annoying because she doesn't seem to realize that she's dramatic. She's also highly opinionated. I can relate to her more than I'd like because I'm also very opinionated. Hopefully I'm less dramatic because I tend to hate drama, but I'll never see myself through someone else's eyes, so I guess I'll never know! But back to Sarah. I admire how loyal she is to her family. The Smythe-Smith brood is intimidatingly large, so it's no wonder she always has someone hanging about. It must be nice to have such a close-knit family. I must admit that I love her sisters. All of them, but especially Harriet and Frances. They are so terribly darling that I cannot express my love completely. It was so very much fun to watch Sarah discover more about herself. The realization that she is indeed dramatic was a priceless moment.
Hugh was someone I loved immediately. I must confess that I swoon easily for the heroes of historical romances. They are always so dashing, with just the right amount of rakish-ness. Hugh is no exception to that, but he's a bit different than your average HR male. He's handsome and charming and witty, as you'd expect, but he's also went threw a great deal with his leg and then with convincing his father to allow Daniel to live his life in England unscathed. The length he went to to assure that would happen is astounding. You want to both congratulate him on his genius and slap him for being an imbecile. His penchant for maths is astounding as well. I can't do basic addition without a pencil and paper (or a calculator preferably), but this guy can do them in his head in a matter of seconds. He's relationship with his father is heart-breaking. Parents are supposed to love you, period.
What can I really say about a JQ novel? She's brilliant. My favorite thing about her collective works is the humor. She always incorporates wit and humor. Humor is very important to me. Reading is an escape that should make me happy and laughter is the best way to show that happiness. I fear she has spoiled me for all other historical romances. I go into them all expecting JQ levels of awesome and am usually disappointed. How to do you go back to loving mediocre once you've had perfection? Beyond my fanatic level of love for all things Julia Quinn, this is also one of my favorite types of stories. That whole I hate you, I like you, I love you dance is always entertaining to watch. It promises epic disputes, witty repartee, and the perfect sigh worthy moments.
Basically, what I'm saying is that this is a novel for everyone. As with most historical romances, even though this is the middle book of a series, it can be read as a stand-alone. It might enhance the experience if you know some of the backstory, but it is by no means necessary. I think anyone who enjoys romance novels of any kind would love this. It's everything you could want in a novel. :)