Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

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Louisa needs to marry well if she is to save her family and this trip to London is an event eight years in the making, eight years in which Louisa had listed out her goals and how she would attain them. The odds are against her, though:

a. She has no money.
b. She has no strong connections.
c. She isn't beautiful.

But Louisa has plotted out precisely how to get herself married to a man with money. It does not bother Louisa that her plan involves employing subtle deceptions like bust enhancers and mayonnaise to make her hair smooth.

All this linguistic extravagance sometimes made Louisa laugh at night, under her blanket. And it sometimes made her quake -- for surely the illusion couldn't last the entire Season. Soon people would realise that her hair was glossy only because of all the mayonnaise she'd put in it over the years, and that her trademark closemouthed smile was to hide several crooked teeth, and that, of course, the bodices of her dresses would look awfully concave if it weren't for the artful and stalwart bust improvers in her wardrobe.
- p. 15

The title proclaims Louisa Cantwell to be the luckiest lady in London and, on paper, she is. Even she, in all her years of careful planning, had never aspired to even make the acquaintance of "The Ideal Gentleman" and now she has managed to nab him: the most sought-after and most unattainable man in London.

Felix Wrenworth has never been loved for his own self: his mother saw him as a tool for revenge against his father. His father never saw him as anything but his heir, a means to protect his family name and legacy (and even that was tinged with doubt, thanks to Felix's mother). And, society adores him now, but only because he has projected an image of "The Ideal Gentleman." Seeing the disastrous end to his parents' marriage, Felix never intended to marry or to fall in love -- but "The Ideal Gentleman" seems to have done both when he meets Louisa Cantwell.

There is a game that Felix plays and it is the same game he played with his mother -- the object of the game is love, but Felix's mother died before they could finish the game. Did he have the upper hand before she died? Or did she? Felix would never know the outcome of that game -- but a new one is starting. This time, with a new player: Louisa.

Louisa only knows half of the rules and is a novice compared to Felix, who has had a lifetime to master it. In the beginning, she plays along with Felix, enjoying the idea that they are fellow conspirators in the greatest social gambit of their lives. But, as their relationship deepens, Louisa is ready to remove the masks, to stop playing the game and to start doing the work of building a real life together -- but, somehow, Felix doesn't know that there is a life for him beyond the game that he has played all his life.

He was already turning away when she gripped his hand.

Kiss me. Shouldn't you at least kiss me when you propose to me?

But when she opened her mouth, out came, "I still want my house and my thousand pounds a year -- for the duration of my natural life. And I want those conditions written into the marriage settlement."
- p. 103

As I was reading this book, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop for Felix and Louisa. It all seemed too good to be true and it apparently was. Both our hero and heroine were projecting, what they believed, were the most desirable versions of themselves -- and society loved them for those perceptions. It also amused our hero and heroine that, with each other, they could say the most impolite, most shocking things and they knew the game they were playing.

The conflict in this story is what makes this story so amazing but, what makes it more amazing is that the conflict is so, so subtle and so quiet -- like a dormant volcano, sleeping quietly and waiting to erupt any moment. In the meantime, we read this tranquil narrative of the life of Louisa and Felix -- but, note, that all the signs are there -- the lack of physical contact, etc. The idea of artifice pervades this book -- even in the way it is written: as layers upon layers of description, narrative, and action -- all perfectly placid and calm -- but these layers hide the truth of Felix Wrenworth.

"I love the size of you," she declared, "the texture of you, the taste of you."

And the rest of me?

He shut his eyes tight against the pleasure, against the pain, against the possibility of betraying all the yearning in his soul.
- pp. 214-215

For the first time in Felix's life, he is not in full control of the situation -- and he wonders if he wants to be. Louisa, with her candour, has chipped away at the facade, at the armour that hides the little boy who yearned for his mother's love -- who now yearns for this woman's love. It is riveting seeing this man pulled in two directions (internally): his sense of self-preservation keeps him from getting hurt -- but, there is Louisa and the promise of something more, something new -- and we wait for him to come to that moment of realisation and makes the decision.

“Where the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being, not our dream, but a human being with flaws.”
- Anais Nin

I think this is Sherry Thomas's most intricate, most nuanced storytelling to date. Our characters have experienced perfection, have attained the ideal -- but, in accomplishing such, have discovered that it is not all that they dreamed it would be. It is in the real, in feeling the rawness of imperfect emotions, in living through all the mis-shapeness of life, that they find what they had been needing all their life: love.

To find out more about Sherry Thomas and her books, click below:


  1. This is a great review, Tin. I'm totally picking up this book now. :)

  2. Hi, Melissa!

    Thank you! I highly recommend this book! I'm very curious to see what you think of it. ^_^




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