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Publisher: Avon Books
Date Released: December 27, 2016
Series: Keeping Up with the Cavendishes #3
Claire Cavendish is in search of a duke, but not for the usual reasons. The man she seeks is a mathematician; the man she unwittingly finds is Lord Fox: dynamic, athletic, and as bored by the equations Claire adores as she is by the social whirl upon which he thrives. As attractive as Fox is, he’s of no use to Claire . . . or is he?
Plus His Brawn
Fox’s male pride has been bruised ever since his fiancée jilted him. One way to recover: win a bet that he can transform Lady Claire, Society’s roughest diamond, into its most prized jewel. But Claire has other ideas—shockingly steamy ones. . .
Equals A Study In Seduction
By Claire’s calculations, Fox is the perfect man to satisfy her sensual curiosity. In Fox’s estimation, Claire is the perfect woman to prove his mastery of the ton. But the one thing neither of them counted on is love . . .
I truly have been enjoying this series! Once again Rodale has written a wonderful novel that fits perfectly into what has become a much-loved series for me. As with Chasing Lady Amelia, Claire’s story runs parallel to many of the events covered in the first book of the series and then expands beyond those moments and/or provides more detail on some scenes that were originally glossed over in the two preceding novels. Yes, you can read this book as a stand alone, and actually this book lends itself more to being a stand alone because while you get details about what happens to Claire’s sisters at the end of their books, what is shared isn’t prone to spoil their stories if you decide to read them later. Course, I always suggest picking a series up from the first book just so you have a good idea of who everyone is and what roles they play throughout the series, but that aside, I highly recommend this novel for anyone who love historical romance and enjoys a bit of Pride and Prejudice adaptation with a dash of Pygmalion on the side.
The reasons why I loved this novel are many, but for the sake of this review I’ll try to keep to a few main points and not go complete fan feline on you. Claire is the perfect leading lady. She’s intelligent, strong-willed, independent, and responsible. She’s not afraid to use her mind and fight for her goals, nor does she feel the need to shape herself into a person she isn’t simply for the sake of fitting in with society. She is content to stand on the outside looking in, that is until she meets Fox, a man who is her opposite in every way possible. Fox is, well, he’s not exactly a rake, but he isn’t ashamed to flirt with every lady who smiles and looks his way, either. He’s more bronze than brains, and he’s okay with that. He knows he’s good-looking, excels at everything he does, with the exception of school, is extremely proud, to a fault, and has a propensity to act without thinking of the consequences. You wouldn’t think that either character would have any interest in the other, but as this story proves, opposites really do attract. And when I think about the type of person who Claire is, I honestly can’t see her with anyone other than Fox. They keep each other off-balance, they question what they are comfortable with, and I think that if they were to have ended up with partners who were exactly the same as they are, they’d all be miserable in the end.
The actual lead up to Claire and Fox’s relationship is a slow burn. She initially is suspicious of him, while he’s perplexed by the fact that she’s not fawning all over him. There’s no instant attraction and rush to be intimate. Instead there are stolen, sometimes passionate kisses, and that’s it until the final chapters of the book. Now the fact that Fox’s original interest in Claire is based entirely on a wager with one of his friends does help in putting up obstacles where their relationship is concerned. No one ever wants to find out that the person they are interested in only started engaging with you because of a bet. The interesting thing is though, you would think that such a realization would end any chance of happiness between the couple involved, but in Claire’s case she takes the entire thing and turns it around to her advantage in the end, and also wins the man when all is said and done. And oh let me tell you that I loved how Claire handled the entire thing! It’s absolutely brilliant, though I was worried at one point that she wasn’t going to succeed.
And speaking of the bet, the actual terms of the wager had me thinking of the story Pygmalion when I first started reading. The idea of taking a person on the outside of society and changing her or him to not only pass but fit entirely in said society is not a unique plot in any sense, but when added to the base plot of Pride and Prejudice, which was what the first book in the series was entirely about, the blending of the two stories works well and the result is enjoyable to say the least.
One thing that surprised me with this novel was that I actually liked Lady Francesca, Fox’s sister and the primary antagonist from the first book in the series. We see a lot more of her in this book, and as a result we learn more about who she is and what drives her to do what she does throughout the series. If I’m to be honest, I rather admired her a bit in this book. Yes, she’s still very much a bully, but she’s also very intelligent and I could argue that if circumstances were different she wouldn’t be that bad of a person to know in the long run. My feelings toward her are much changed from my original first impressions. Rather curious to see what part, if any, she’ll play in James’s novel, which I’m greatly looking forward to reading! After three books of him being on the sidelines, I’m more than ready to see what Rodale has in store for him. Heehee.
I greatly enjoy how Rodale has tied all of the books in this series together. As I mentioned earlier, there are scenes from the first two books in this story that are expanded on as viewed through Claire’s eyes. As a result we not only get to read and learn about Claire, but we also get to learn more about her sisters, Bridget and Amelia. Having all three sisters’ books run parallel with each other provides a richer storyline and allows the reader to get closer to the family in ways that I’ve not experienced with other books before. It’s a feature that certainly stands out for me and I have to wonder if this is a style of writing that occurs in all of Rodale’s series or if it is unique to this one. Either way it is certainly one of the defining reasons for why I love this series. Seriously, if you’ve not picked up this series, what is stopping you? I dare you to discover the Cavendish siblings for yourself, and I promise you won’t regret a single moment of your time spent with them if you do. I really can’t wait to read more of Rodale’s books! =^.^=
“Who would have thought we’d see this day?” Mowbray mused. “Miss Arabella Vaughn, darling of the haute ton, running off with an actor.”
“That alone would be scandalous,” Rupert said, adding, “Never mind that she has ditched Fox. Who is, apparently, considered a catch. What with his lofty title, wealth, and not hideous face.”
Fox’s Male Pride bristled. It’d been bristling and seething and enraged ever since the news broke that his beautiful, popular betrothed had left him to elope with some plebian actor.
Not just any actor, either, but Lucien Kemble. Yes, he was the current sensation among the haute ton, lighting up the stage each night in his role as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Covent Garden theater was sold out for the rest of the season. The gossip columns loved him, given his flair for dramatics both onstage and off—everything from tantrums to torrid love affairs to fits over his artistry. Women adored him; they may have sighed and swooned over Lucien Kemble as much as Fox.
To lose a woman to any other man was insupportable—and, until recently, not something that ever happened to him—but to lose her to someone who made his living prancing around onstage in tights? It was intolerable.
“Just who does she think she is?” Fox wondered aloud.
“She’s Arabella Vaughn. Beautiful. Popular. Enviable. Every young lady here aspires to be her. Every man here would like a shot with her,” Mowbray answered.
“She’s you, but in petticoats,” Rupert said, laughing.
It was true. He and Arabella were perfect together.
Like most men, he’d fallen for her at first sight after catching a glimpse of her across a crowded ballroom. She was beautiful in every possible way: a tall, lithe figure with full breasts; a mouth made for kissing and other things that gentlemen didn’t mention in polite company; blue eyes fringed in dark lashes; honey gold hair that fell in waves; a complexion that begged comparisons to cream and milk and moonlight.
Fox had taken one look at her and thought: mine.
They were a perfect match in beauty, wealth, social standing, all that. They both enjoyed taking the ton by storm. He remembered the pride he felt as they strolled through a ballroom arm in arm and the feeling of everyone’s eyes on them as they waltzed so elegantly.
They were great together.
They belonged together.
Fox also remembered the more private moments—so many stolen kisses, the intimacy of gently pushing aside a wayward strand of her golden hair, promises for their future as man and wife. They would have perfect children, and entertain the best of society, and generally live a life of wealth and pleasure and perfection, together.
Fox remembered his heart racing—nerves!—when he proposed because this beautiful girl he adored was going to be his.
And then she had eloped. With an actor.
It burned, that. Ever since he’d heard the news, Fox had stormed around in high dudgeon. He was not accustomed to losing.
“Take away her flattering gowns and face paint and she’s just like any other woman here,” Fox said, wanting it to be true so he wouldn’t feel the loss so keenly. “Look at her, for example.”
Rupert and Mowbray both glanced at the woman he pointed out—a short, frumpy young lady nervously sipping lemonade. She spilled some down the front of her bodice when she caught three men staring at her.
“If one were to offer her guidance on supportive undergarments and current fashions and get a maid to properly style her coiffure, why, she could be the reigning queen of the haute ton,” Fox pointed out.
Both men stared at him, slack jawed.
“You’ve never been known for being the sharpest tool in the shed, Fox, but now I think you’re really cracked,” Mowbray said. “You cannot just give a girl a new dress and make her popular.”
“Well, Mowbray, maybe you couldn’t. But I could.”
“Gentlemen . . .” Rupert cut in. “I don’t care for the direction of this conversation.”
“You honestly think you can do it,” Mowbray said, awed.
He turned to face Mowbray and drew himself up to his full height, something he did when he wanted to be imposing. His Male Pride had been wounded and his competitive spirit—always used to winning—was spoiling for an opportunity to triumph.
“I know I can,” Fox said with the confidence of a man who won pretty much everything he put his mind to—as long as it involved sport, or women. Arabella had been his first, his only, loss. A fluke, surely.
“Well, that calls for a wager,” Mowbray said.
The two gentlemen stood eye to eye, the tension thick. Rupert groaned.
“Name your terms,” Fox said.
“I pick the girl.”
“This is a terrible idea,” Rupert said. He was probably right, but he was definitely ignored.
“Let me see . . . who shall I pick?” Mowbray made a dramatic show of looking around the ballroom at all the ladies nearby. There were at least a dozen of varying degrees of pretty and pretty hopeless.
Then Mowbray’s attentions fixed on one particular woman. Fox followed his gaze, and when he saw who his friend had in mind, his stomach dropped.
“Yes,” Mowbray said, a cocky grin stretching across his features.
“Unfortunately dressed I can handle. Shy, stuttering English miss who at least knows the rules of society? Sure. But one of the Americans?”
Fox let the question hang there. The Cavendish family had A Reputation the minute the news broke that the new Duke of Durham was none other than a lowly horse trainer from the former colonies. He and his sisters were scandalous before they even set foot in London. Since their debut in society, they hadn’t exactly managed to win over the haute ton, either, to put it politely.
“Now, they’re not all bad,” Rupert said. “I quite like Lady Bridget . . .”
But Fox was still in shock and Mowbray was enjoying it too much to pay any mind to Rupert’s defense of the Americans.
That was the thing: Mowbray hadn’t picked just any American, but the one who already had a reputation for being insufferably intelligent, without style or charm to make herself more appealing to the gentlemen of the ton. She was known to bore a gentleman to tears by discussing not the weather, or hair ribbons, or gossip of mutual acquaintances, but math.
Lady Claire Cavendish seemed destined to be a hopeless spinster and social pariah.
Even the legendary Duchess of Durham, aunt to the new duke and his sisters, hadn’t yet been able to successfully launch them into society and she’d already had weeks to prepare them! It seemed insane that Fox should succeed where the duchess failed.
But Fox and his Male Pride had never, not once, backed away from a challenge, especially not when the stakes had never been higher. He knew two truths about himself: he won at women and he won at sport.
He was a winner.
And he was not in the mood for soul searching or crafting a new identity when the old one suited him quite well. Given this nonsense with Arabella, he had to redeem himself in the eyes of the ton, not to mention his own. It was an impossible task, but one that Fox would simply have to win.
“Her family is hosting a ball in a fortnight,” Mowbray said. “I expect you to be there—with Lady Claire on your arm as the most desirable and popular woman in London.”
About the Author:
Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence and it wasn’t long before she was writing her own. Maya is now the author of multiple Regency historical romances. She lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.
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