Friday, June 1, 2012

My Lady Rival by Ashley March

Two households, both alike in dignity (1)

The Strattons and Lauries run two of the biggest dye-making businesses in the world. Three years ago, Alex Laurie lost an important investor to the Strattons, thanks to Willa Stratton's machinations. This time, as both companies chase after the elusive Madonna dye, a deep blue that was used only once for the Queen's dress, Alex is determined to best her.

Alex and Willa are Ashley March's Romeo and Juliet, but, unlike the star-crossed lovers, the rivalry between our hero and heroine does not stem from their parents but from their own pride and ambition.

Alex believes that the Madonna dye is his family's entry into London Society. He needs it to ensure proper marriages for his sisters (read: titled marriages). He's in London looking for clues related to the disappearance of the dye's creator -- and he is surprised (and annoyed) to see that his old rival is also in town for the same purpose.

Willa Stratton desperately needs the dye. It's her key to freedom from her father and his demand that she marry a man of his choosing. (See p. 121) Unfortunately for her, Alex Laurie wants the same dye.

Three years ago, Willa let Alex believe that she used her feminine wiles in order to secure an important investor for her father's company -- and she's not afraid to do it again.

Their last meeting ended in a kiss and a bitter feeling of betrayal in Alex Laurie. Now, their meeting begins with a flirtation and an almost-kiss at a masquerade. I think Ashley March use of the masquerade as a device is appropriate -- in fiction, a masquerade is a time of fantasy and pretend. The rules of society are put to rest for the magical few hours where everyone is masked and rank and identities are briefly forgotten.

Alex and Willa have fixed roles in society and they play those roles effortlessly. In their public and business personas, they are in competition with each other. But, free of those roles, they are two people who have amazing chemistry with each other. (See Chapters 1 to 4)

The interlude ends with an unmasking, both literally and figuratively -- without their masks, Alex and Willa are forced to confront the truths in front of them:

1. They are both in London for the same reason: the dye.
2. They are attracted to each other.
3. They cannot have each other because of business.

When he straightened, Willa's heart gave a hard thump in her chest. Yes, he was there. It was him. Alex Laurie.

He might be her rival, but he was still one of the most beautiful men she'd ever met.
- p. 72

She is not for me.

She has money but not the connections or influence needed to grow the business of Laurie & Sons.
- p. 277

It is interesting to note that the term rival can also be used to compare two things of equal value (see's definition #1 for rival) -- and we see how our hero and heroine are well-matched for each other. They pursue the dye with the same relentlessnes as they do other things in their lives.

They love the same degree as they hate. They want as badly and desperately as they reject.

They are equal in all things, including passion.

I love the intensity of the two characters. Each encounter is fiercely explosive. While Shakespeare's lovers ended in tragedy, March's Alex and Willa finally set aside their pride to express what it is that they truly want and are rewarded for it in the end.

This is Ashley March's last book written as Ashley March. She has 3 books written as Ashley March:
1. Seducing the Duchess
2. Romancing the Countess
3. My Lady Rival

She has 1 e-novella, Romancing Lady Cecily.

(Yes, I've read all of her works.)

The author now writes under the name Elise Rome. (See the FAQ on her website.) Her first book as Elise Rome, The Sinning Hour will be released June 2012.

To find out more about Ashley March/Elise Rome, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Final note: I felt the tone changed abruptly from Chapter 15 and it took me a while to get back on track.

(1) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Prologue verse 1


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