My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In THE UNLIKELY LADY, the 3rd novel in the sexy, quirky, and entertaining, Regency-era, Playful Brides series by Valerie Bowman, best friends Lucy, Cass, and Jane are once again up to no good. This time it’s Jane’s turn to benefit from their schemes.
With the help of her friends, Jane tricks her mother into believing she is being chaperoned to Cass’s wedding house party by the nonexistent Mrs. Bunbury. Jane is a 26-year-old, bluestocking spinster and women’s rights advocate who would rather curl up with a good book than attend parties and flirt with men. She wears thick glasses, has a fondness for teacakes, and used to be teased in school because she was overweight. Even her mother called her “plump.” She also has a competitive streak, one of her most endearing qualities.
Also attending the house party is Garrett Upton, Lucy’s cousin, and heir to an earldom, with whom Jane has an antagonistic relationship. They can’t be around each other without arguing. Jane doesn’t know very much about him and has a preconceived notion that he’s a profligate rake. In actuality, Garrett takes his responsibilities seriously. After his friend took a bullet for him during war, Garrett has been taking care of his friend’s family. He’s interested in expanding a bill in Parliament to compensate the families of soldiers who died in combat.
Since Garrett and Jane are always bickering and clearly do not get along, she is the most unlikely lady to pair up with him. But when Isabella, the widow whom Garrett has been financially supporting, invites herself to the house party, Jane and Garrett find themselves more often in each other’s company. They learn how to talk to each other without constantly bickering and with respect, they discover they have similar values and more things in common than they thought, and their unlikely pairing develops into something really special.
THE UNLIKELY LADY is my favorite book in the series so far. I loved Jane’s spunk and snarky comments. I liked how Garrett saw her as curvaceous, not “plump,” and how protective and caring he was toward her. Garrett is a loyal, steadfast guy, with hidden depths of character, much to Jane’s (and the reader’s) delighted surprise.
But what I liked most about Jane and Garrett is their commitment to social causes and reform. They’re not idle aristocrats but productive members of society. I appreciate heroes and heroines that are doing more with their lives than just reaping the rewards of their privileged lifestyles. I think intelligence is one of the most attractive qualities in a man.
Although I thought the ending was rushed and the villain was defeated with a soap operatic flourish, I had a lot of fun reading this book. The secondary characters were amusing, genuine, and overall nice people, whom I wouldn’t mind seeing again. The cliffhanger was very intriguing, and I look forward to reading Daphne’s story next.
*This review is based on an eARC I received from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.