Pages: 397 pages
Publisher: April 1st 2010 by Avon (first published March 13th 2010)
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell feels a bit ridiculous. A self-proclaimed, plain Jane, with a rather silly name, and more figure and curves than are fashionable, she even looks ridiculous in the horror of a dress her mother insisted she wear to her debut ball. Adding to the ridicule of being plain and looking horrid, Callie hasn’t danced with one eligible or desirable man all evening and has been reduced to a wallflower at her own coming out ball. Feeling rather sorry for herself, and loathing all the rules of society that claim a well-born lady must make nice with everyone, even undesirable oaths, she escapes to the garden where she can feel sorry for herself and dwell on the shame of being such a disaster at her own ball. Ladies are not suppose to hide unattended in the garden, at night, and they aren’t suppose to engage in conversation and flirtation with a well known rake, like the Marquess of Ralston even if he is devastatingly handsome. His kind are not intended for girls like Callie.
Ten years later, Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has been relegated to permanent spinster with no hopes of a match and she hasn’t danced at a ball in years. With her lace cap, and still ridiculous dresses chosen by her mother, she seems much older than she is. Sitting on the side lines with the other unfortunates of her class, she watches as life and love happen around her. When her younger sister lands not only a duke, but a duke that loves her, Callie can’t help but feel that her last ten years have been wasted and she longs for a love of her own- and an adventure. Problem is, for the last ten years her fantasy hero has had only one face, that of the irreputable Marquess of Ralston. She decides then and there that she is quite fed up with her role in life and pens a scandalous list of nine, forbidden adventures she would like to have and she’s going to accomplish at least one of them tonight-
Kiss someone- passionately.
It’s ok to stop at this point and squeal. I am. I’m also sleep deprived because I read this book in one sitting because it’s impossible to put down. This story is so much fun! Callie is such a refreshing character, an ahem, older heroine in search of adventure and freedom from her everyday life and the unspoken rules and regulations of a society that has kept her trapped, even from herself, for ten years. By day she is the picture of decorum and manners as she councils a young lady about to enter society and by night she is daring and rash, shocking even herself as she breaks every rule she’s ever adhered to. She engages the Marquess as her partner in crime and the ill reputed playboy quickly has to take on the roll of protector as this well-born lady goes down her list, astounding even the Marquess.
I just adore Callie and envy her lack of restraint, especially in a time when a lady was only ever allowed to be a lady. Her adventures may not be shocking by our standards but for 1823 England her actions were unheard of and her single-minded determination is admirable in any age.
MacLean has made an instant fan. Her writing is clean and precise making for a seamless story that tells without so much as a hiccup from start to finish. There’s nothing silly about her characters, they are well defined and immediately lovable- even our bad boy, and her love story never comes across as sappy.
Be advised that the Ralston’s dialogue is best read with a fan handy.