Such a delightful recommendation by my friend Aileen (the Coolest Person Ever)! Best comparison might be Sherry Thomas’ The Luckiest Lady in London or Georgette Heyer’s Arabella but honestly, and without any pretensions of grandeur, all of these books owe the original debt to my favorite Pride and Prejudice.
Kitty is our fearless protagonist who speaks the Truth That Shall Not Be Named in Polite Society, namely that her family is Poor and she needs money the only way that a society miss can get it: by marrying a wealthy husband who can discharge the substantial debts incurred by her recently departed parents, allow her sisters to remain in place and/or hie off to college, and let her live the rest of her life in relative comfort and without much stress. Her conniving is, therefore, no different from reading a book about a modern woman determined to career climb, or whatever. Somehow we call that girlbossing but this mercenary, which is all nonsense.
Kitty, of course, has Secrets (her mother? or father? was high born and eloped to be with the other one who was an actor, so I assume it was her father was high born and her mother was an actress) that no proper Society Lady can have. Our male protagonist is Lord James Radcliffe, recently of Waterloo, who has his own demons (PTSD, namely, apparently in a time before that was known as a disease).
Kitty manages to convince the younger brother of the Lord Radcliffe to marry her, and then of course Lord Radcliffe steps in and promises to guide her through High Society in order to find her a different, more eligible bachelor to marry.
I said, a DIFFERENT and MORE ELIGIBLE BACHELOR oh who are we kidding, we know it’ll be Radcliffe even if Irwin does her best to make it seem like it’ll be any of the other saps that Kitty gets in her sights.
As has been noted by others, this book is unique amongst the Regency novels I’ve read recently for not having a scene where the characters mysteriously find themselves alone and sans clothing and doing the deed. It felt almost anachronistically chaste, which is possibly the funniest thing of all.