The Viscount and the Virgin
The Viscount and the Virgin had a very old-fashioned feel to it. Not so much in the purple prose sense, but in the too many exclamation points and ridiculous misunderstandings sense. The title doesn’t help either.
Imogen Hebden doesn’t really have a lot going for her. Her mother and stepfather are dead, and one of her stepbrothers let her know that her stepfather burned through her inheritance before he died. Imogen’s aunt has agreed to finance a season and guide her through it, but doesn’t hold out much hope; Imogen is clumsy, and can hardly rise from a chair without ruining her clothes. At one of her first society outings, Imogen fears her aunt is right. She manages to fling champagne onto a dandy – who then loudly accuses her of doing it on purpose in order to compromise him and force him into marriage.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled to discover that this piece of work is the hero. Viscount Mildenhall (aka “Monty”) has only recently come into his title after a brother’s untimely demise. Until recently, he was a soldier. With his newly acquired title, he finds that women throw themselves at him, trying any trick they can to get him to the altar. Apparently, no female is immune to his stunning good looks and financial prospects, and his only defense is to be a complete ass to all of them. Poor little rich boy. Monty manages to have another run-in with Imogen in which he goes out of his way to believe that she has lured him out to a balcony so she can pounce on him. He persists in this belief despite her frank protestations and a lack of any evidence. He kisses her, and she punches him in the face, which amazingly does nothing to dispel his notions that she has set her cap for him. He is also inclined to doubt her because her mother was involved in a notorious affair, so clearly she can’t be any better.
I won’t bother to explain how they end up getting married, but they do, whereupon Monty has a epiphany at the altar: Imogen wasn’t trying to entrap him after all! At this point, he dispenses with the “she’s a scheming baggage” mentality, and they both settle into a new routine, which involves going out of their way to misunderstand each other. They go home to Monty’s family estate, and are now calling each other “Monty” and “Midge” – possibly two of the least sexy nicknames ever. They have sex like rabbits, but struggle on the communication front. The estate is presided over by Monty’s father, whose behavior is so bad that he makes pre-marriage Monty look like a sweetheart. Then they proceed to earnestly misunderstand each other right up until the end of the book.
I never could muster up much interest in either Monty or Midge, and I didn’t particularly care whether they stayed together or not. Their dorky names didn’t help, and neither did their prodigious use of exclamation points. I’m not of the “never use an exclamation point” school, but toward the end of the book, nearly every paragraph was ending in one! That would be excessive for anyone! It began to drive me crazy!
So, you may ask, what’s the plus in the D? There was an aspect to the story that I did enjoy. Midge’s mother and father were involved in a truly salacious scandal. And, it even involved a half-Gypsy brother. this was the kind of overly dramatic blast from the past I could really get behind. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough to save the book. I’d give Monty, Midge, and their many exclamation points a pass.