Zebra’s Debut program is a great idea. Readers get to try brand-new authors at a special price and so far several of the authors featured in this program have turned out rather good books. Kristina Cook is certainly no exception to this. The characters in her debut novel, Unlaced are likable and, while it does not stand out very far from the Regency-set historical crowd, it is certainly a pleasant read.
Henry Ashton, Marquess of Mandeville, needs to find a wife. After being burned by an unfaithful fiancée, he decides that he will choose a docile, well-connected lady who will further his political career. Demeanor and pedigree mean everything here, and love does not even begin to enter into the equation – a resolve that is shaken when Henry meets Miss Lucy Abbington.
Lucy is the daughter of a country physician and his aristocratic wife who has been sent with family friends to London for the Season to further her father’s hope that she will make a good match. One of the very first people she meets is Henry and, though it is certainly not love at first sight, he does intrigue her.
Lucy, however, is not terribly interested in marrying; instead she wants to use her time in London to further her amateur veterinary studies. Needless to say, the notion of a lady acting as veterinarian shocks much of society – Henry included. Still, Lucy is persistent (not to mention skilled in handling her four-legged patients) and Henry starts to find himself more open to the idea of courting a rather unconventional lady.
While Lucy’s veterinary practice seems to come a bit too easily to her, she is a likable character and I found myself more and more willing to accept her. She is not the least bit silly when it comes to dealing with her animals and the scenes involving her work as a veterinarian were interesting. Henry is a strong hero and, though not perfect, he is a good match for Lucy.
Cook’s writing flows well, and it is very easy to be drawn right into her story. However, aside from Lucy’s career goal, much of the tale involves the quest for conventional social success, the scheming over suitors, and the trips to balls and the theatre that have become par for the course in Regency-set historicals. Still, Cook writes skillfully enough that one does not mind once again going over such well-traveled ground.
Were it not for the truly saccharine epilogue, this book would have earned a stronger recommendation from me. Unfortunately, though, the epilogue undid a lot of the work this author obviously put in on characterization and plotting. In addition, while this book is an entertaining light Regency-era romp, it simply does not stand out from the vast pack of European Historicals well enough to garner a stronger endorsement. Still, if you like light Regency-set books, this one is a fun read and the author is skilled enough that I will certainly be checking out the next book in this series.