Normally I do try to write my thoughts without too many spoilers (note the way I say try!) but this time I am afraid I am not able! So.........spoilers galore below!
Fueled by the knowledge that notoriety is better than failure, witty, unconventional Josie does what no proper young lady should-she challenges fate. She discards her corset and flirts outrageously. She attends the horse races and allows an arrogant rakehell to whisk her behind the stables for a surreptitious kiss . . . and is caught!
She doesn't want to marry the young hellion-but who's to help? Her chaperone keeps disappearing for mysterious appointments; her guardian is on his wedding trip; and his friend the Earl of Mayne is too busy staring into the eyes of his exquisite French fiancée.
Can a marriage forced by stuffy convention and unwilling desire become the match of the season?
The fourth and final story in the Essex sisters series, following on from The Taming of the Duke. And here I am, saying oh dear, another Eloisa James novel that just didn't quite do it for me, for a few reasons. The thing with her novels is that I feel like I should like them a whole lot more than I do, and I don't know why I don't!
The youngest Essex sister has made her debut into the ton, but it hasn't exactly gone smoothly. She has been christened The Scottish Sausage, and the only people who are willing to dance with her are people who have been coerced into it by her friends and family. Finally convinced to rid herself of the terrible corset contraption that she had been wearing, Josie has decided that the best way to get herself a husband is to do something completely unorthodox, exactly as her sisters have done. With Mayne prepared to teach her how she should walk and talk, how could she go wrong. The fact that Mayne donned her dress in order to do so was somewhat strange, to this reader at least.
Anyhow, after a few different escapades everyone is off to the races, and Josie is waylaid by a scoundrel who really just wants to upset her more than anything. Things don't exactly go as plan and Mayne finds her in a dishevelled state in the stables. Thinking that she has been ravaged there is no option but to find her a husband and quickly, before there is a scandal. As to dealing with the scoundrel, well, Josie has that well in hand herself, but her close knit family also come to her defence.
So, first let's talk about Josie. I did like Josie. I understand her body image issues and her desperation to catch a husband. I liked that in the end she provided Mayne with the means to give his life some depth and meaning, although I do have to say that this story once again had too much horse stuff in it. I think that I said something similar about Much Ado About You. I like horses, but don't love them, and it was too much of a good thing IMO.
And now for Mayne. What to say about Mayne. Well let's start with...I was disappointed for him. Mayne has been a character in at least five of Eloisa James' books. His identity as a disaffected rake has been sculpted over a long period of time. He was also engaged to Josie's sister Tess, her other sister Imogen wanted to have an affaire with him, and there was something about him with Anabelle as well. So basically he has gone through all of the Essex sisters before getting to Josie......ewwww. And then there is the age difference. Josie is barely 18, and Mayne is much, much older. Even that is not an insurmountable obstacle really I guess. What I wanted for Mayne was a grand passion that swept him off of his feet, and I don't think that we really got that. Yes, the author tried to convince us that he did, but I just didn't feel it!
When we first meet Mayne in this book he is engaged to a beautiful French aristocrat, and seemingly madly in love with her. She is a little less besotted, and has some definite ideas of what is expected from the perfect husband. After a huge fight which Josie witnesses, the engagement is off, and that night Mayne marries Josie. Huh? There was very little build up in the relationship between Mayne and Josie, but very, very quickly it is supposed to appear as though Josie and Mayne are in love with each other.
What else? Well, there were some aspects that I did like in this story. I was so pleased that Mayne's sister Griselda finally got some action, and loved the secondary romance between her and Darlington. This isn't the first time that I have preferred the secondary romance in one of James' books, and I suspect it won't be the last time either!
Having said all of that, I was just sitting here flicking through the book to look for something, and I found a scene and read it again, and thought it was just lovely. I hope you aren't reading this wanting to know what I thought about this book because apparently I can't decide myself properly!
Oh, and in the Reader's section on her website, Eloisa James. has just put up an extra chapter to this book. To me it feels more like an epilogue to the whole series, but whatever you want to call it it was really nice. Made me cry my eyes out. And I was so glad that she chose not to make life for the four Essex sisters all sugar coated and perfect.
I do wonder if these extra chapters are a thing that she will continue. I did feel as though the extra chapter for Taming of the Duke should not have been necessary if the book itself had of been clearer about what happened where, but this one didn't feel necessary, just an added extra.
Wow...I've ended up writing quite a bit in this review. Not bad seeing as I am pretty torn between really liking parts of it, and really not feeling other parts!