I absolutely loved Nine and Eleven; a bit less crazy about Ten. Of course, I'm speaking of Sarah MacLean's fabulous Love by Numbers trilogy: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart.
Her newest book focuses on a minor character from Eleven, Lady Penelope Marbury, who was dumped by the Duke of Leighton when he fell madly in love with another woman. Eight years later, she's still unmarried, so her father adds the estate of Falconwell to her dowry. This estate once belonged to the Marquess of Bourne, but he lost it, along with everything else he owned, in a card game with the Earl of Langford. Penelope's father has since won it from Langford, again in a card game.
Bourne has managed to become wealthy again, by being an owner of the gambling hell The Fallen Angel. He has become hard, cynical, and ruthless and seemingly has forgotten about his childhood friends, Penelope and Tommy (Langford's son).
Bourne still owns the empty manor house at Falconwell, and one cold night he encounters Penelope, carries her to the house, compromises her, and marries her. Having regained the estate, he's still bound on revenge against Langford by revealing that Langford's son, Tommy, was fathered by his brother.
The story shows the first tumultuous months of Penelope's and Bourne's marriage, which moves from their pretending to have made a love match into a truly loving relationship.What I Liked
Penelope was a fun heroine, who went from a dull, dutiful daughter to an independent woman, seeking love and risking all for adventure.
Bourne married Penelope only to get ownership of Falconwell; then he planned for them to lead separate lives. He is totally a scoundrel, but the story of his redemption is moving and believable.
The letter between Pen to Bourne, interspersed in the chapters and covering the years from their childhood to early adulthood are cute.
The glimpses we got of Bourne's partners in The Fallen Angel were all fascinating, and I look forward to their stories.What I Didn't Like
The reunion of Pen and Bourne, with both out walking in the middle of a cold, snowy night, was nonsensical. Bourne had returned to the neighborhood for the purpose of forcing Pen into marriage. I'd like to think that he had a plan which didn't rely on such an unlikely coincidence.
Although MacLean includes her typical hot scenes, I just didn't feel the heat between Pen and Bourne. At the beginning of the penultimate sex scene, I found myself checking my email. Not.A.Good.Sign.
So, although this was a very well done forced-marriage, rogue-meets-spinster plot, it simply didn't engage me enough to call this a five-star book. What Bugged Me
I expect editors at big publishing houses like Avon to catch things such as the following:
On page 31, Pen's father tells Bourne that because he has five daughters and no son, his title will go to an "idiot nephew." On page 300, however, he says it will go to "some idiot cousin."
On page 334, Bourne undresses Pen, "leaving her bare, save for her stockings," yet two paragraphs later he is removing her "boots and pantalets, leaving her in nothing but her stockings."
I didn't notice it in her earlier books, but MacLean seems fond of one-sentence paragraphs.
And one-incomplete-sentence paragraphs.And italics for emphasis.
I urge her to resist this style of writing. She's very talented and has no need to rely on such lazy gimmicks.