The Lady Most Likely...
The Lady Most Likely… is not really an anthology so much as one story about the same house party, written by three different authors. But since each author focuses on a different couple – and writes one section of the book – I’ve reviewed it as an anthology. If you like Brockway, Quinn, and James, it’s one you’ll likely enjoy.
The set up for the book is that Hugh Dunne, the Earl of Briarly, has finally decided to take a wife. His sister Carolyn hosts a house party, inviting several eligible women. Hugh is somewhat rough around the edges – not in the rake sense, but in the horse-mad-seldom-pokes-his-nose-out-of-the-stables sense. His first two prospects meet their matches at the house party, and in the final portion of the book Hugh finally gets his turn.
Julia Quinn writes the first portion of the book, which focuses on Gwendolyn Passmore – a woman of incomparable beauty who also happens to be very shy. She has no desire to be at a house party, having survived the season by counting the days until she can be home and away from crowds. She quickly attracts the eye of Hugh’s best friend Alec, who had no particular interest in marrying until he saw her. He quickly falls in love after that, and though he doesn’t particularly care that Gwendolyn was his best friend’s top choice, there’s another obstacle: His sister Octavia is very jealous of Gwendolyn. Octavia made her debut at the same time, and sees Gwendolyn as aloof and unfriendly. She also feels that Gwendolyn hogged all the men, who then noticed no one else. This is a short story (or rather a third of a novel), so these problems are resolved fairly quickly. I liked both characters and found their relationship fun. If you like Julia Quinn, you’ll likely enjoy this part too.
Grade: B Sensuality: Kisses
Connie Brockway focuses on Kate, the next girl on Hugh’s list. As Kate’s portion of the book begins, she’s just about to kiss Hugh, until her childhood friend Neill arrives and roughly pushes Hugh aside. Captain Neill Oakes grew up on an adjoining estate and was forever hanging around with Kate’s brothers. He’s nearly always loved Kate, but when he declared himself interested, Kate’s father told him he needed to grow up first. He promised not to pursue Kate until he proved his worthiness (and Kate turned eighteen).
But since he couldn’t bear to stick around and watch other men court her, he joined the army. Now he’s back and ready to declare his intentions. The only problem is that Kate’s brother has left him as nominal chaperon, and he feels that he can’t court her under those circumstances. I enjoyed this part of the book as well. I’m a bit of a sucker for friends in love, and Neill pursued Kate in a determined fashion once he felt free to do so. Kate is likable as well, and very determined to move the romance along (she cares little for the chaperon issue, and knows nothing about Neill’s promise to her father). It’s a fun little plot with the requisite happy ending.
Grade: B Sensuality: Subtle
Eloisa James finishes the tale off with Hugh’s story. You can tell from the beginning of the book who really has Hugh’s eye – longtime family friend Georgiana. Georgiana is a widow, and her husband was a very different man than Hugh. Richard was fastidious in his appearance and critical of others, while Hugh scandalizes everyone by training his thoroughbreds while shirtless.
After Hugh’s other two prospects are off the table, he settles in to nab Georgiana. She’s vowed never to marry again, but now that Hugh’s finally got his mind on something besides horses, he is very single-minded in his pursuit. This was actually my favorite portion of the book, which surprised me somewhat. I’ve only read James once, and it was years ago – well before she hit her stride. My grade at the time reflected that. This time around, I found myself enjoying her style, particularly the dialogue. It’s the hottest portion of the book as well, and the love scene between Hugh and Georgie is well-written and enjoyable. I liked both main characters, but I especially liked Hugh, who is utterly charming here. I’ll definitely be looking at more of James’s work after this.
Grade: B+ Sensuality: Hot