Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.
And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.
Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.
Jane Fairfield doesn’t want to get married. It’s not that she doesn’t want to fall in love and have a family, it’s that the family she has—her sister—is more precious. Having been neglected and starved for parental love and care, Emily and Jane are each other’s worlds. Well, there’s some bad literature involved too, a girl can’t avoid that not even in the 19th century. Or they would be if Emily’s guardian would let them. The Fairfield girls have little choice but to wait and count the days until Emily’s majority and freedom.
It’s just that a promise and Jane’s enormous fortune make achieving this goal a little bit difficult. Here’s where the mountains of lace come in. Jane was never brought up to be a proper lady and now she’s taking those liberties she has taught herself to the extreme to protect herself, her fortune, and her autonomy. That is to say she wears horridly tasteless gowns (some do like bright colours, even I, occasionally) and doesn’t shut up like a proper lady should (not—which, good for her—but is expected to). She’s smart and capable, but she’s also been coddled in a way. No one has taught her how to be ruthless. She’s about to learn.
Oliver is ambitious. He has everything Jane doesn’t: A loving family and a thorough education he means to use. He wants a career in politics (which makes me question his intellect and attractiveness to be quite honest) and he wants to change the world. He knows how to be ruthless, when to take a punch and when to walk away, and that has left its mark on him. Nope, we’re not talking about visible scars either, unless you count the freckles, which my mother does every summer just to annoy me.
Both Jane and Oliver are well off. They’re not starving and though they have their challenges, they’ve found ways to cope. Neither recognises that in this link or circumstances it’s them in danger of breaking. They both need saving before they lose themselves.
I admired how proactive Jane was. She didn’t stand still and wait someone to come rescue her, she faced the danger and rescued herself. It was a treat especially now that I’ve read theCarhart books. She was the one who found a solution for Oliver’s problem. She was the one who discovered the strength to play dirty. Jane recognised Oliver’s doubts and adapted but only to a degree her self-worth would let her. And in the end her choices forced Oliver to adapt.
As I saw Jane conquer one obstacle after another, I was left wondering whether there’d be left anything for Oliver to do. Sure he had the important task of negotiating a new law, but on a more personal level he appeared inert. I didn’t get it until I did. The flinching, it’s what I’ve learned to do. Not from fights, but talking. I simply don’t have the passion and strength to do it like I used to and I’ve learned to pick my moments. I understood the importance of Oliver reclaiming that part of himself. I also chalked it up to different tempers and theatrics. Partly.
The rest of it were the genre dictated expectations, which I’m also blaming for the epilogue. Too nice a bow for the story. Maybe that moment of absolutely happiness had been earned, but I think Jane and Oliver would have been better—more real—without it.
This being a romance novel I have my little gripes too. I’m definitely not a fan of the euphemisms even if it’s virginal Jane describing the scene. However, that doesn’t explain why Oliver would ever refer to his penis as his member (of parliament). And let’s not forget the slight ridiculousness of how their short-lived affair began. It should have been Jane who interrupted them, not the rain.
There’s also something that takes this book a step beyond the typical romance. Milan gives Emily a voice to show just how capable she is and to highlight another less talked of historical fact: Immigration. As surprised as I was to see the time taken to develop this side of the story, it fit well into the rest of the narration.
On a technical level, this is one of Milan’s successes. The text flows and plot is balanced. There weren’t any of those weak moments that plagued The Duchess War.
There weren’t any violent mood swings this time, only some deep laughs, but I loved it all the same.