The Matchmaker Trilogy, Book 2
Heat Factor: Detachment → sexytimes → detachment
Character Chemistry: I don’t understand how they simultaneously work so well together and communicate so badly, but the give and take is wonderful to read
Plot: Eccentric Duke comes to London to find a wealthy bride. Naughty Countess gives him courtship lessons.
Overall: Just the book I needed
I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary romance and also a lot of historical romance that feels like contemporary romance. So reading To Charm a Naughty Countess, which feels like a historical romance, was exactly the break I didn’t know I needed.
Do they have open and honest communication? No. Of course not. There are some things you just cannot talk about when you’re at a ball. Are they completely confused about their emotions? Yup. Do they have loads of emotional baggage that they flounder to process? Oh yeah.
Michael, the Duke, is extremely socially awkward. He spent one Season in London, and that was enough for him, thank you very much. He has therefore spent most of his adulthood at his country seat desperately working to revitalize the estate. But it’s been a freakishly cold year, and the crops aren’t growing, and his creditors are coming a-calling, so he hies himself to London to find a rich wife.
Enter Caroline, a young-ish widow. She knew Michael back in the day; in fact, he, uh, ruined her. (More in a “there’s a lot of innuendo about y’all” way than in a “he actually had sex with her” way. He, being socially clueless, doesn’t even know the ruination happened!) In order to exorcise him from her mind, because she has a lot of conflicting emotions about this guy, she takes him under her wing. She will guide him through the social maze that is London and introduce him to eligible young women with gobs of money.
And so Michael and Caroline begin spending loads of time together. You know where this is going, right? But it was so emotionally satisfying to watch their slow dance towards each other as they moved closer together and farther apart, while also coming to terms with their own feelings.
I liked that Caroline was smart, competent, self-aware, and experienced – but also full of self-doubt about her place in the world. (I especially appreciated an early scene where she picks a new lover from her scores of admirers.) I liked that Michael was a virgin supernerd who felt things so strongly but didn’t know how to express himself.
I liked that the book was quiet. Nothing dramatic happens, but sometimes the smallest moments cut the deepest.
I liked the bits of humor as Caroline teaches Michael how to interact with others; turns out “Deuced cold, isn’t it?” works as a response in a variety of situations.
I liked that a lot of the tension in the book centers on loving someone not “in spite of” but “because of” their flaws. Ultimately, this book is about two deeply lonely people finding a second chance at happiness, and in the end, it’s a beautiful thing to see.
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