This is the first in a new series by Eloisa James, The Wildes of Lindow Castle, featuring here Lord Alaric Wilde who is the son of the Duke of Lindow. He isn’t the heir to the title, that honor belongs to his elder brother North after the first son died unexpectedly. Alaric has been out of the country for several years, traveling and exploring while writing about his adventures. He’s completely unaware that his books have created a popular persona among the ton, and he’s garnered notoriety for his good looks and dashing deeds. There’s even a play about his exploits! When his boat docks on his return to London, he is stunned by the mobs of women waiting to catch a glimpse of him. It’s like Beatlemania in Georgian England, and he’s Paul McCartney!
To escape the madness, he heads home to Lindow Castle, only to discover that there is a house party going on to celebrate his brother’s engagement and there’s more women there who idolize him. His family doesn’t help his situation either, as they find the whole thing hilarious, and his sister even paints pictures of his exploits. Only one of these women refuses to join the frenzy, Miss Wilhelmina Ffynche – she doesn’t care at all about his popularity, and is quite sure that he’s arrogant and likely fabricated most of his stories. Her best friend, Lavinia, on the other hand is besotted with Alaric and can’t wait to meet the legend. The two young women share a close friendship and it’s amusing to read their wildly varying opinions about Alaric. Once Alaric realizes that Willa isn’t bowled over by him, he becomes intrigued and wants to know more about her.
And so Alaric sets out to woo Willa, and Ms James does a wonderful job of portraying both of them. It has wit and amusing scenes, but also we learn more about Alaric’s family and how the death of his eldest brother affected him. Willa was an enjoyable character as well, she’s smart and witty without being tiresome, and the two of them were wonderful together. This being a house party setting, there are a lot of other characters in the picture – notably a friend of the family who bickers constantly with Lavinia, but I’m sure will be a romance to come. Alaric’s brother North also features prominently, with his reluctant fiancee Diana, and their romance is left up in the air by the end of the book. Of course, there’s also some drama to be had in the form of Prudence, a woman who is slightly mad and believes that she and Alaric are destined to be wed. There’s also some cute animals in the book – a baby skunk named Sweetpea and a cat named Hannibal that are part of the ensemble cast.
Ms James does a good job as well of portraying the Georgian era, and I had to laugh at the description of North’s ornate wigs and clothing, neither of which Alaric bothered with. “I’ve decided that your wig makes you look like an African parrot crossed with a fancy chicken.” “North, your stockings are striped and your heels are yellow!” It was quite a period for dandy sartorial style!
I’ve read several of Ms James books, and there’s been some hits and misses – this was one of the good ones.