It’s somewhat refreshing from time to time to read a book that doesn’t involve so much of a social leap as to be slightly ridiculous. Like, to be clear–a duke is essentially the highest form of peerage there is, second to actual in-line-to-the-throne people, and for some reason there are literal hundreds of them falling in love with tailors and servants and childhood friends left and right.
In this case, Gabriel is an essential orphan who grew up in the poorhouse and has made a fortune out of ruining nobility. We’re meant to see that as evidence of his dastardly ways, but seriously if you’re in debt because the idea of working is abhorrent to you perhaps you do not deserve the title and lands given to you by happenstance of your birth? Besides, he’s our main lead so you know he can’t be all that bad.
Lady Penelope is in that vein of “hoarder of small lost things,” in this case via her veritable menagerie of animals that she keeps in her animal sanctuary of a home. Yadda yadda yadda, if she doesn’t get rid of them something, something else Gabriel must help. And also they want to bone.
Your mileage with this book will essentially vary with your tolerance for quirk. Penelope is a lot of quirk–she makes utterly inedible vegetarian substitutes for meat as a result of her animal husbandry–but in her usual anachronistic way, Dare has given her so much autonomy and independence (not a single chaperone is to be seen in this entire book) that it comes off as eccentricity as opposed to…well, wallflowerism, to be honest. I don’t think I would have had as much patience if Penelope had been this friendless, dithering lady with an interest in animals.
As it were, the book gives Penelope every avenue to be her own true self but better, and forces Gabriel to show up and prove himself worthy of Penelope just as she is. Hence, rounding up to four stars!