When It's Perfect
When It’s Perfect is a sequel to Someone Irresistible, which was described by reviewer Rachel Potter as being “an interesting and very sensual read.” I’m happy to report that exactly the same thing can be said of When It’s Perfect. Miss Mary Marsh and Marcus Longfellow, the Earl of Renn are a perfect match and I liked them a great deal.
Mary Marsh is a seamstress. Well-born, but not high-born, spinster Mary makes her way in the world by designing wedding trousseaus, her specialty being lacy and erotic ladies’ foundations. For the last several months, Mary has been working at the estate of Christine Longfellow in preparation for the young lady’s upcoming nuptials. Things go along quite well right up until the month prior to the wedding, to the day Christine is found dead.
Marcus Longfellow has spent the last four years in Egypt where he has been researching ancient artifacts, specifically hieroglyphics and their translation. More a scientist than an earl, he has left the running of Renn to his younger brother, George. The basis for the Renn fortune is the excellent quality porcelain clay that can be found in the mines at Renn, and George has more the knack of day-to-day operations than Marcus. If it were up to Marcus, he’d go to Egypt and never come back.
Through a series of increasingly distraught letters, Christine had made it plain to her brother Marcus that she needed him. Marcus arrives home again in England only to discover he was a mere two weeks late. In a freak accident, Christine fell and hit her head on a dressing table, and died. All of Renn is in mourning – except for her fiancé and childhood friend, Viscount Baudwin Fife, who seems not to mourn the loss of his beloved hardly at all.
When Marcus and Mary come face-to-face, there is a familiarity to their introduction, for Christine had written much about Mary to her brother, and had also told Mary quite a bit about Marcus. Christine was a matchmaker at heart, and felt Marcus and Mary would be a perfect match. Christine was right.
But there are obstacles. First and foremost, Marcus wants to get to the bottom of Christine’s untimely death. At eighteen, she was on the eve of marriage and a happy future with a man she loved. So why were her final letters so filled with fear and anguish? Marcus’ inquiring mind wants to know. To aid him, he enlists Mary’s help. It was Mary who found Christine’s lifeless body and Mary in whom Christine had confided. But this is an age where propriety reigns supreme, and there are some things people simply do not discuss, making Marcus’ investigation into his sister’s final days frustrating at best.
Marcus is thoroughly smitten with Mary, and the feeling is returned. But Mary believes she is no fit wife for an earl, even though Marcus is less interested in being an earl than he is in hot-footing it back to Egypt where the work that he loves awaits him. Still, Mary’s intelligence and grace are strong attractions for him, too, and he decides to pursue a relationship regardless of social constraints – or Mary’s protests.
So, what happened to Christine? And why does Mary feel she is unsuitable for the likes of an earl? What about Baudwin, and why’s he being such a jerk? The questions pile up, and all are answered in due time, some more satisfactorily than others.
When It’s Perfect is well-written and evocative. Marcus is a wonderful hero. He’s alpha when it’s necessary and beta when it counts. He’s nervous and funny and gentle and sexy. Being a wealthy earl holds no interest for him, but having Mary in his life forever does. As for Mary, she is a very strong heroine with a mind of her own who falls in love with Marcus before she even meets him. But she has her secrets – secrets that would keep her and Marcus from their happy ending, were Marcus not made of sterner stuff.
The pacing in this book was a bit off; the first half of the book moved slowly and much time was spent by both Marcus and Mary in angst-filled self-talk, but the second half picked up a bit and brought all the loose-ends together just in the nick of time. The love scenes (and the second half of the book is devoted in large part to those) are luscious and lingering; you will certainly get your money’s worth here. It seems nearly everybody in the book has secrets (as any character-driven book should), and a couple may surprise you. The clues are there, but are subtle and very nicely integrated into the story.
Despite how good this book was overall, I did have two big problems. I can’t go into detail (spoiler territory here), but I will say that somebody who knew what happened to Christine did not react in a manner consistent with their relationship with her. I didn’t buy it. And the second problem involves an historical error involving a major character over which I couldn’t suspend disbelief. Without providing spoiler material, I can’t say much, but the resolution to an important plot point involves the changing of English history. As a result, the book ended on a false note and lowered my grade.
These issues aside, When It’s Perfect is a solid read featuring a smart, sexy hero who knows what he wants and exactly how to get it. It’s clear Marcus is a very loving and good man – just as a Perfect hero should be.