Well, I see what people like about Loretta Chase! She’s fun.
I have been reliably informed that this book of hers is good, but not her best work. I can see that. Parts of it were incredibly enjoyable, and parts of it felt a little under-baked and overwritten.
But first let’s talk about the enjoyable stuff, because there was a lot of it. The premise here is really fun. Lady Olympia Hightower gets a little sloshed on her wedding day and decides, hey, actually I don’t want to marry this Ashmont fellow, and climbs out the window. She is caught doing so by one of the groom’s best friends, the Duke of Ripley (one of the titular Difficult Dukes, who are collectively known in society as “their Dis-Graces”), who has been tasked by Ashmont with making sure the wedding goes off without a hitch. Disappearing bride=hitch, so he goes after her.
Chasing after a drunken, determined bride through the rainy streets of London turns out to be quite the adventure. He can’t convince her to turn around and go back, so he follows her to make sure she’s safe. In the meantime, he learns that well, actually, she’s quite to his taste, and damn it, he’s upset that his friend wants to marry her, because she’s delightful and exactly the sort of woman he’d like to marry himself. It’s pretty cute, actually, in his inner monologue, he’s always thinking about how different characteristics of hers are “perfect for Ashmont”, when actually he’s lying to himself and what his brain really means is she’s “perfect for him,” and in reality, not suited for Ashmont at all, who is pretty useless at this point in the series (drunken, irresponsible, competitive, all lovely qualities). I laughed out loud when he finally realized what he’d been doing.
And Olympia herself was a lovely character. Much as Ripley is known as a rake and a troublemaker, she is known as a wallflower, a bookworm who will talk your ear off about library classifications, but really, she’s far from dull. As Ripley points out later in the book, nice girls don’t run away from their weddings, or partake in all of the other spoilerish activities she and he get up to in the following days (most of which is not sexy!!). Ashmont wants to marry her because she’s kind and different to what he’s used to, and because everyone thinks he should, but doesn’t deserve her. Ripley falls for *her*.
But with all that said, I thought it was a little weak in spots, too. I noticed it during their sex scenes, how things felt a little overblown and overwritten, and looking back, I think it’s because Ripley was slightly underdeveloped, so Chase had to resort to a bit of purple prose and cliché to get through what was supposed to be a touching moment (and she did it in his POV, too, which made it worse). I only really noticed it because the rest of the book was so crisp, and her writing so clever, her dialogue so bantery. We never really see why Ripley has decided to give up his ne’er-do-well lifestyle, or see much about his childhood, or his past with his three friends. We really only see him in the moment, and what we get is nice, but Olympia got so much development and backstory, they were out of balance with each other. (Interesting to note Chase narrowly skirts instalove here, but she gets away with it because: a) The characters have been acquaintances for some time and were previously attracted to one another; b) As they mention themselves, due to their little adventure, they actually spent more time with each other before their wedding than most couples at the time did; and c) Going through something intense and traumatic with another person can bring you close to that person really quickly.)
Still, looking forward to reading Ashmont’s book (book two), and Blackwood’s book (Blackwood is married to Ripley’s sister, but they seem to be on the outs with each other, so there is clearly something Dramatic going on there).
[3.5 stars rounded up because it really was fun]