This is a book I’d been waiting to read for some time, and unlike other recent new books by favorite authors, this one didn’t disappoint! Lady Clara Fairfax is the woman who lost the heart of the Duke of Clevedon in book one of the series, and she’s made minor appearances in the other books following. At last, this is her story. Even though she lost the duke, she gained a fashion stylist of the times in Marcelline Noirot, now Clevedon’s wife. Clara was transformed from wearing dowdy frocks and outdated fashions into a beautiful, poised woman who became sought after by all the eligible men. Unfortunately, she isn’t interested in any of them, and feels that her life is rather constricted by the expectations of her mother. Her charity work with children has given her some measure of satisfaction, but the brother of one of them has gone missing and she is determined to find him before he is lost to the gangs forever. To do this, she seeks the help of Oliver Radford.
Radford, known as Raven, is one of the top barristers in the country. He’s aggressive, with a keen intelligence and sharp wit, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He was a childhood friend of her brother as well as Clevedon, and the inadvertent cause of the chip in her front tooth. His cousin Bernard had always found a reason to bully him, and during a scuffle, Clara jumped in to help and got elbowed in the mouth for her trouble.
“I hope the chip’s stuck in his elbow and stays there forever,” she said. Then, in a whisper she added, “The bastard.” And giggled.
Perhaps Oliver fell in love with her then.
That was the last time he’d seen her, until she shows up in his life again 18 years later and the fun begins…he thinks she has grown up to be just another pretty society woman, but she proves him wrong on every level. She is able to keep up with his wit, and their banter is a joy to read. Much like Lord Dain (Lord of Scoundrels), Raven is an unlikely romantic hero. He comes as across as if he isn’t interested in Clara, but he struggles constantly with his inner emotional self and outer rational self.
Remarkably fine figure, he was aware of his irrational self thinking. It proceeded to imagine said figure in its natural state. Such meditations were not conducive to clear thinking.
He wrestled the other self into a dark corner in the back of his mind …
Clara isn’t anything like what he expected, and with the two of them thrown together to find the missing boy, he is unable to resist the attraction for long. It isn’t just the physical attraction between them, though. They are so well matched and bring out the best in each other in such a believable manner. Raven is a man of his times, and I didn’t expect him to pull a complete turnaround to feminism, that wouldn’t have been consistent; however, he does come to appreciate her intelligence along with her beauty and strength of character. The love between them is more than insta-lust, it develops slowly, to the point where he would do anything for her.
He knew he’d move heaven and earth to bring that light to her face, to awaken that smile and the glint of laughter in her blue eyes. He didn’t see how he could get used to it, let alone take it for granted.
Her parents aren’t as thrilled about his proposal, and a mock trial is held to validate his worth as a husband for Clara. And he isn’t about to lose this trial either, he fights hard to prove he will be able to provide a good life for Clara, and that he will be a good husband despite the difference in their social standing. In truth, he is second in line to the Duke of Malvern, after his odious cousin Bernard, and his own father. He doesn’t want to become duke, but it’s something he can throw into the mix to sway Clara’s parents.
I hope I’m not going to spoil anything by saying they do marry, and I enjoyed reading about their adjustment to wedded bliss, and subsequent closure of the case of the missing boy, and the case Raven was working on as well. They make a good pair, working together, and still trading quips all the while. She calls him “O light of my life” and he responds with “O queen of all realms of my life”. (It reminds me in a way of Nick and Nora Charles, and all their affectionate banter.) I do like how Ms Chase explores the life after the wedding here, as she’s done in some of her other books as well.
And then, to add to the mix, family fortunes change, and Raven is one step closer to being a duke. Maybe it’s too fortuitous as far as plot goes, but again it was handled well and allows Clara to shine. She was born to deal with the social obligations of the ton, and is up to the challenge.
To be honest, there IS a lot of plot to this book, but Ms Chase does her usual magic in making it all work. However, I’m not sure what the title of the book has to do with the actual story – Raven isn’t a duke, and while Clara is blonde, I don’t imagine her hair color had anything to do with his love for her. So I can only assume it was just another publisher ploy to pull in the readers, but really all I need to see is that Loretta Chase wrote it! I loved this book, it was everything I expected and more. I hated to see the end of it.