Unlike most authors today, Eloisa James gets a lot out of the omniscient point of view. She uses it to provide irony and wit without confusing the reader. Also, she had the guts to rewrite her book prior to paperback publication to make it more accurate. Too bad a couple of big misunderstandings dragged the story down. Add to that a lengthy and unneeded separation, and this could-be enjoyable story becomes instead a flawed read.
Charlotte Daicheston does something reckless. She goes to a ball and is deflowered by a man she assumes to be a footman. She doesn’t realize this is no ordinary ball; it is the Cyprian’s Ball, an obviously debauched affair. Nor does she realize the handsome footman is really Alex, the Earl of Sheffield and Downes.
When Charlotte sees Alex at a subsequent ball, she recognizes him right away. Alex doesn’t recognize her as the young woman he’d encountered previously – but he still wants her. At first, Charlotte doesn’t want to marry a man who would forget deflowering her, but her resistance wears down. She’ll marry him, even if all of society believes that Alex is impotent. After all, she knows he’s not a “floppy poppy.”
My “pleasures” in reading this book waned near the middle. As the wedding approached, the book started to drag . Even worse, once the big misunderstandings (ahem) arose, the book wasn’t as fun. Alex’s behavior toward Charlotte cast a pall on the book. Also, a long separation seemed unnecessary to the plot except to give Alex a reason to get suspicious.
Charlotte starts out naïve, but she grows as the book goes on. The seduction changes her life and makes her stronger. I wish she’d used that strength to set Alex straight after the big misunderstandings. In some ways, Alex is a typical romance hero, for while he is too quick to condemn Charlotte on the basis of slender evidence, he is also a charming suitor and a wonderful father. Too bad his charm deserted him every time he suspected Charlotte of betraying him.
Although this book gets a sensuality rating of Warm, don’t think it isn’t sexy. Even before they’re married, Alex can’t keep his hands off Charlotte. I was surprised they were never caught. The people who thought Alex was impotent weren’t very perceptive, were they?
The secondary characters are lively and unusual. Thanks to the omniscient viewpoint, we know why they act as they do. If you don’t like knowing what the heroine’s mother or friend is thinking, let alone knowing what the butler knows, this book might not be to your liking. It was hard for me to adjust because of my decided preference for strict third-person viewpoint with a minimum of headhopping. Yet Eloisa James made the unusual viewpoint work for me.
In some ways, this can’t really be considered a romance, though it’s not strictly a historical novel either. This is as much a witty novel about the characters surrounding Alex and Charlotte as it is about Alex and Charlotte. In spite of the sensuality, Regency Romance fans who enjoy witty dialogue and lots of supporting characters might enjoy this more than someone looking for a historical romance. Just make sure you’re inoculated against big misunderstanding plots before starting this book.