Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: The Lady Most Willing by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway (ARC)


I had the pleasure of reading the first collaboration of these three very talented authors, The Lady Most Likely and thoroughly enjoyed it. Part of the beauty of that book is that it is not an anthology but a collaboration: one story written by three authors and guessing which author wrote which part while reading. (There are "markers" that seem to indicate where one author ended and the other one picked up.)

Imagine my thrill when the three authors announced that they would be collaborating on a second book -- and here it is: The Lady Most Willing --

Taran Ferguson bemoans the fate of his clan: he has no heir save for his nephews -- an English earl and half-French/half-English comte. He has no control over who will inherit (the half-French one) but Taran has decided he will have a say over who his nephew will marry (someone with Scottish ties) and when (now).

So in a drunken moment, he and a few of his clan find themselves some brides and they return with four: Marilla Chisholm, her half-sister Fiona Chisholm, Lady Cecily Tarleton -- and Catriona Burns, who was apparently kidnapped picked up by mistake.

And they also accidentally kidnapped the Duke of Bretton! (And his carriage) --

Bad weather prevents Taran from returning his unwilling guests and everyone tries to make the best of this very, very strange situation.

Of the four ladies, I enjoyed reading about Fiona Chisholm and Lady Cecily the most. I thought they had the most interesting stories: Fiona's reputation was ruined by her now-dead fiance. She has a fortune from her late mother but has contented herself to acting as her younger half-sister's chaperone.

There's a tragic side to Fiona's story: she's a victim of a patriarchal society and everyone was more willing to believe what they had seen (her fiance's dead body outside of her window after he fell when the ivy he was climbing broke) instead of the truth from Fiona.

She continues to live with the stain of that incident -- but she has a quiet dignity to her and she is no wilting flower: she is capable of standing up for herself and for making her own decisions -- and state her own opinions!

I especially loved this confrontation with Marilla:

"Be careful with your tone," Fiona warned. "I'm no subservient Cinderella here to do your bidding. I sewed on your gown all morning so that you wouldn't be stalking the castle half-naked, but if you are rude about it, I shan't even thread a needle tomorrow."
- loc 1892

Lady Cecily has always been put on a pedestal because of her position in society and because of her wealth -- she's been loved and adored from afar by many -- but what Cecily wants is to be loved from up close. And this interlude at Taran Ferguson's keep has provided Cecily with her chance to leave the ivory tower that society has placed her in -- and, believe it or not, she's enjoying herself. (She's not enjoying the cold, though.)

Now, if she can only convince a certain gentleman that what she wants is love (and warmth.)

"This?" Robin said softly. For a moment he simply ran a finger along the velvet nape, his expression softening. He lifted it up, swishing it lightly in the air. "This is most rare, indeed. A relic, in fact."

"But what is it?" Fiona asked, dimpling.

"I believe this once cloaked the form of a creature as rare in these parts as hen's teeth."

Cecily's heart began beating faster. His voice was warm and sad, wry and bittersweet.

"What creature is that?" Marilla asked.

"Why the Angliae optimatium heres."

"What's that?" Taran demanded.

"The English heiress," Fiona translated with a laugh.

Cecily felt warmth rise in her cheeks and looked away.

"Rob!" Oakley said in a low voice. "You've embarrassed Lady Cecily with your reference to her wealth."

The smile stiffened on Robin's dark, handsome countenance. "That was never my aim," he said. His gaze caught Cecily's and he inclined his head. "My pardon, Lady Cecily. But you must certainly know that your value far exceeds anything that can be counted in coin."

...

"I am afraid I have nothing of value with which to barter, Miss Burns. Neither goods nor talents."

Cecily's heartbeat slowed to a dull, heavy thud as her throat constricted with tears she refused to shed.

..."Nothing. Besides, the point is moot. I would never aspire to something so far above my touch."
- loc 4394 to 4412

What amazes me about this project is that Eloisa James, Julia Quinn and Connie Brockway all have very distinct writing styles and voices, but, together, they are compatible and capable of a very cohesive (and very enjoyable) story.

There's a wonderful balance to the characters and their stories: the princess in the tower, the fallen woman, the wealthy one and the destitute one -- and each one is given a fair treatment in the story.

Lastly, I cannot end this review without mentioning the humor found in this story: Quinn, James and Brockway have discovered the golden mean -- and there's enough witticism and cleverness in this story to keep a reader entertained (but not too much to make it too silly.)

To sum this all up, I loved this story and I loved the characters. ^_^

The Lady Most Willing by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway will be released in print and digital copies this December 26.

To find out more about each author and their books, visit their websites:
Julia Quinn: http://www.juliaquinn.com/
Eloisa James: http://eloisajames.com/
Connie Brockway: http://www.conniebrockway.com/



Disclosure: I received an ARC of The Lady Most Willing through Edelweiss. Many thanks to Avon Romance for the opportunity. And, yes, this is an honest review.

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