Bingo Square: Brain Candy
With this, I have now completed Loretta Chase’s Carsington Family series, even if I saved the first of the series for last! This was another solid entry, though there is barely even a mention of Rupert in this novel beyond being lumped in as one of Alistair’s younger brothers (and the one with the grey horses). What can I say, Mr. Impossible remains my favorite of the series, and I am sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Rupert was basically like the Taika Waititi version of Thor. At least y’all won’t have to hear me say that again now that I’m done with the series! Unless someone has a direct plug to Chris Hemsworth or Taika Waititi in which case you should totally send him/them Mr. Impossible. But I digress.
Alistair is the third of the five Carsington brothers, and while his two older brothers have been nicely settled off, Alistair and his two younger brothers’ upkeep is becoming a bit expensive for their father, the Earl of Hargate. In his younger years, Alistair had a series of women related scandals, one right after the other, each more expensive than the last. After the final scandal, Alistair joined the British military to fight Napoleon on the continent, and returned a decorated war hero. In that time, he hasn’t been involved in a single scandal, but his obsession with clothing has led to some tailors’ bills that rival his worst scandals, leading to his father setting down his foot. Alistair needs to find some gainful way to support himself or marry an heiress, or it will affect his younger brothers’ financial stability.
Alistair ends up in Derbyshire on an errand for his best friend Lord Gordmore, who is also the one that found him on the battle field when everyone else had given him up for dead. As a result, Alistair is very motivated to achieve his goal: he doesn’t want to let his friend down, and as his new business partner, he wants to achieve financial independence. Gordy has recently started mining for coal in his lands, but the road system connecting his land to buyers makes it too costly an endeavor to be worth it. The solution is to build a canal but there is one community specifically that will be affected by this canal, and they are not exactly sold on the idea. Mirabel Oldridge, daughter of the largest land owner in the area, is especially vocal in her objections. The rest of the community was happy to speak against the canal when it was merely Gordy advocating for it, but now that a genuine war hero is in their midst, they are too awestruck to voice their concerns.
As a result, Mirabel knows she must advocate even harder. Mirabel’s mother died over fifteen years ago, pulling her husband into a deep melancholy. Mr. Oldridge stopped paying much attention to anything beyond botany, plants and a good dinner. As a result, Mirabel has become the de facto estate manager, leaving behind two seasons and an engagement in London over eleven years ago to restore order to her home before mismanagement could ruin her family.
As a man obsessed with clothes, Alistair can’t help but be driven to distraction by Mirabel’s utter lack of interest in clothes or inability to properly attire herself. Her color choices are completely wrong for her complexion, the cuts are the opposite of flattering, and even her hair is unruly and won’t stay in place. Naturally, they are attracted to each other. Mirabel helps Alistair finally deal with his status as a war hero, something he has felt awkward about since it happened, because she doesn’t walk around on egg shells like everyone else and is able to put it in perspective. He has also been unable to remember what actually happened that day, and it is only after taking a fall while on a nature walk in Derbyshire that he finally begins to regain some memory.
Mirabel has given up quite a bit for her family. She is mostly happy with her lot, but it also means she is very attached to the land and making sure it stays as it has been. She can’t imagine a life outside of the one she has, even if she is willing to make some memories with Alistair to keep for her old age when she looks back. Certainly she sees no future with him because she sees only resentment in their future once the canal decision is reached, the only question being who would resent whom based on the outcome.
I quite liked this one, and enjoyed how the characters used clothes as armor. It actually slightly reminded me of Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect, which involves a heroine who purposely wears the most distracting clothes and colors she can find to distract men but also because she secretly loves them. While the canal dispute certainly makes sense initially as an obstacle to their long term happiness, Mirabel and Alistair seem to fight against the notion of love and being together a bit more than seemed reasonable. Also, most of the novels in this series have an extra side plot beyond the main story to add to the drama. The one in this one started out reasonable (fired employee with a vendetta) but ended up taking a rather nefarious/ridiculous turn. Still, overall I enjoyed this one, though I would say I prefer the middle three novels of this series to the beginning and the end. Now, I need Loretta Chase to release the next novel in her Difficult Dukes series, because I can’t wait to see where that one goes – and like A Duke in Shining Armor, this novel had two older supporting characters with enough sparks to make me want to read a novella about them.
Bingo Square: Brain Candy