Love According to Lily
Julianne MacLean holds the prize as author of the only book I have ever reread almost as soon as I finished it. An Affair Most Wicked clicked on all of the right levels for me, but sadly set my sights high for her future books. Love According to Lily pales by comparison and just manages to remain interesting, while teetering on the verge of dull.
Lady Lily Langdon’s excessively romantic nature seems to be the bane of her existence. The feisty younger sister of the Duke of Wentworth, Lily has only to remember her attempted elopement years earlier with a worthless man and her subsequent rescue by her brother James and, much to her mortification, his friend Whitby to know well her ability to be blinded by passion. Her family managed to keep her indiscretion a secret and slowly allowed her quiet return to society, but Lily can’t help but feel damaged all the same. As she contemplates her mother’s intense search for her future husband, Lily admits to herself that in spite of her past poor choices, she remains an unrealistic dreamer. She only wants Whitby, the man she has loved from afar since the age of nine, but unfortunately Whitby appears to see her only as the young foolish girl she once was, or worse, as a sister.
Edward Wallis, the Earl of Whitby, is the Duke of Wentworth’s oldest friend. Growing up together they were both quite the scoundrels, but Whitby always bore the blame for their scandalous behavior. Now the Duke is happily married, while Whitby rejects the thought of growing up and continues to act more like he is nineteen rather than his true age of 33 years. But his drinking is growing worse and his world is closing in on him as Whitby realizes that he is gravely ill and fears he may be dying since his father died at the age of 42 after suffering with an illness similar to his own. For the first time Whitby is looking at life seriously and is uncharacteristically preoccupied with his duties. All must be put in order just in case.
At a hunting party given by her brother, Lily finds herself overwhelmed with love for Whitby yet again. Silently suffering from his unintentional rejection, Lily decides it is time he noticed her as a desirable woman rather than his friend’s younger sister. Following the advice of her sister-in-law Sophia, Lily begins wearing more daring gowns and flirting outright with Whitby, letting him know clearly, in Sophia’s words, that she wants to be caught. But none of Lily’s attempts for attention seem clear to Whitby – he is impervious to her charms and still ignores her. Just about the time Lily determines that all of her coquettishness has been useless, Whitby’s concealed illness worsens, causing him to be bedridden and his friends to fear for his life.
Indecisiveness and fear drive Lily and Whitby’s actions throughout the book. Lily’s pursuit of Whitby becomes tiresome as she decides that she will win him or can’t win him – again and again. Whitby’s escalating fears concerning many aspects of his life ultimately make him appear weak and unable to cope effectively with changing circumstances, rather than the strong, tortured hero I suspect he was meant to be.
Love According to Lily is one of the more aptly named books I have read lately. Despite the impropriety, Lily insists on taking care of Whitby in his illness and eventually manipulates her dreams into a plan to help him and ensure her involvement in his life. All of her planning rests on the certainty born out of her romantic notions that her love is enough. Unfortunately, desperation fuels both Lily and Whitby’s actions more than sensibility or love.
Marion, the dowager Duchess of Wentworth, provides a rather boring secondary storyline – I just couldn’t make myself care for her. Whitby’s cousin Magnus adds some spark to the story playing a multidimensional villain who apparently finds redemption in the next book of this series. For those readers who relish suspense subplots, I believe you will find this one anticlimactic, although it actually worked for me since I don’t favor that scenario in romances.
Although I did not enjoy the heaviness that illness cast upon this book, it does provide some promising premises and uncommon plot elements. The friend’s younger sister plot line is one I usually relish and I considered both Lily and Whitby attractive characters. However, Lily’s desperate acts and Whitby’s numerous fears cast a pall over the storyline that ultimately robbed it of its vitality.