Review: One Night of Passion by Erica Ridley (2019)

Wicked Dukes Club, Book 3

Review of Wicked Dukes Club, Book 1

Heat Factor: A comfy chair and a roaring fire

Character Chemistry: They are soulmates

Plot: Sometimes jarringly abrupt

Overall: Mostly charming

As I was reading this book, my main emotion was low-key delight. The characters made me smile, and their interactions immediately showed their compatibility and capacity for friendship based on mutual respect.

Thaddeus, our hero, is a hopeless romantic, and I dug that minor gender role reversal. He is a mere mister – no title, no fortune, but comfortable enough to participate in some activities of the ton (mainly: Almack’s). And he’s looking for a wife in all the normal places, but not for dynastic legacy purposes, but because he wants to find a life partner (hence: Almack’s). However, he hasn’t had much success thus far. When another character asks him what he’s looking for, he declares: “Easy. There will be rainbows, and bluebirds, and a ray of shimmery, heavenly light, and… er…”

No wonder he’s not making progress in the marriage department.

But then, he meets Priscilla. Who rebuffs him. But there are sparks, so he visits her home, and a rainbow appears. It’s a sign! (She also has a bird! Another sign! No rays of heavenly light, unfortunately.) Ridley includes these extremely cliché fairy tale details with a wink, and her characters are fortunately self-aware enough to laugh at them, which is part of what makes this book so fun.

The roadblock to true love with Priscilla is that she absolutely does not want to get married. In fact, she has dedicated the past 5 or so years of her life, ever since she came out, to not getting married. See, Priscilla’s father set up a trust for her. The stipulation: she gets the money when she turns 25, as long as she’s unmarried. But she has to participate in the marriage mart, and there can be no scandal attached to her name. So she has this whole game she plays where she strategically shows up at places like Almack’s, but never dances with truly eligible men. Her master plan is to take the money, and use it to travel to Africa to meet up with her adventurer father, who, I should mention, has visited her literally twice in her entire life (and doesn’t even write her letters – she follows his adventures in travel journals, which is indicative of how fucking terrible this dude is). So a bonus roadblock to true love with Priscilla is that she has severe abandonment issues (well-earned), and therefore is also afraid of marriage.

But she can’t deny the sparks she feels with Thaddeus either, so they develop a friendship, and then a desperate longing for each other, but the whole issue of her inheritance stands in their way. Because she can’t give up the promise of freedom, even for love, and Thaddeus will not ask it of her because he is a true gentleman.

In Thaddeus and Priscilla, Ridley has created a pair of well-matched people, who build a relationship on respect and affection, and whose long-held dreams of a life well-lived are intrinsically in conflict, all of which makes for a compelling read as their story progresses.

The main problem with One Night of Passion is that there’s not a lot of build up or explanation. Things happen abruptly – and not just on the larger scale of plot, but on the smaller scale of how scenes are written. Here’s an example. Priscilla and Thaddeus are talking about Priscilla teaching herself French, and then this exchange happens:

“How much do you know?”

“Vocabulary? Quite a bit of it. I’ve memorized every list I can get my hands on. Grammar? Just what I can puzzle out from books. I’ve never had a proper tutor, and poring over Voltaire and Beaumarchais line by line isn’t the best way to – “

“I’ll write you letters,” Mr. Middleton said without hesitation.

In the version I read, there was a page break between Priscilla’s explanation and Thaddeus’s response, and I initially thought I had skipped a page, because his response seemed like a non-sequitur. She has given no indication that getting letters would be welcome or helpful. Thaddeus makes no indication that these letters will focus on French grammar in any way. (Plus, her real stumbling block is pronunciation, since she’s only learning by reading, not by conversation, so I don’t understand how letters will help.) I get that this is a way to have them interact (a lot!) without seeing each other, and to develop their relationship, and give Priscilla some space for pining, but like I said: no build up or explanation. (The follow through on the letters is also weak and rushed – we are just told that they write letters, frequently. And that’s about it.)

This abruptness doesn’t make One Night of Passion less fun, necessarily, but it was jarring enough that it brought me out of the story. I would say: go for it if you want something light with likeable characters who are aristocracy adjacent. Skip it if you want amazing prose or a tightly continuous plot.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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