Miss Wonderful, by Loretta Chase

>> Friday, July 16, 2004

Loretta Chase's classic Lord of Scoundrels is a particular favourite of mine, so when she released Miss Wonderful, her first book in some time, I pretty much auto-bought it.

Alistair Carsington really, really wishes he didn't love women quite so much. To escape his worst impulses, he sets out for a place far from civilization: Derbyshire--in winter!--where he hopes to kill two birds with one stone: avoid all temptation, and repay the friend who saved his life on the fields of Waterloo. But this noble aim drops him straight into opposition with Miss Mirabel Oldridge, a woman every bit as intelligent, obstinate, and devious as he—and maddeningly irresistible.

Mirabel Oldridge already has her hands full keeping her brilliant and aggravatingly eccentric father out of trouble. The last thing she needs is a stunningly attractive, oversensitive and overbright aristocrat reminding her she has a heart--not to mention a body he claims is so unstylishly clothed that undressing her is practically a civic duty.

Could the situation be any worse? And why does something that seems so wrong feel so very wonderful?
Miss Wonderful was not quite as wonderful as LOS, but it was still a delightful book. A B+.

The book is a perfect blend of comedy with more serious issues, and it works wonderfully. I just adored the characters, both of them. Alistair, with his almost "silly ass" façade and his dandy-ism, trying to hide his hurts that way, was a dear. He was a war hero with real problems, not just the odd nightmare, and tried to hide the consequences with levity and his very distinctive sense of humour. Mirabel, too, was wonderful: sensible and warm, also with a lovely sense of humour. And I actually thought it was refreshing to have a heroine who would resort to somewhat underhanded tactics to get what she wants.

The development of their relationship was beautiful, and really romantic, too. I especially liked the way their conflict about the canal was given the exact right importance in their interactions... important enough that they were at odds, but both were perfectly aware that it wasn't the end of the world.

Miss Wonderful was a keeper until the last part, where a suspense subplot kicked in, out of the blue, and took over much of the story. Not only wasn't this needed to provide conflict, because there was more than enough tension between Alistair and Mirabel due to the canal, it didn't fit in well with the tone of the rest of the story.

Still, with two engaging characters and a wonderfully witty writing style, this book was a winner.


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