Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Lady Most Likely

Last night I read The Lady Most Likely, containing three separate romances penned by three separate novelists: Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway. Each of the romances takes place during a single extended house party in the countryside.

I believe I first heard tell of this book after reading Romance Author Jeopardy over at the Avon Romance blog, a link I found via Sarah Maclean's Twitter account. (At least, that's where I think I found it.) It was vastly entertaining, and it certainly seems that someone's knowledge of Shakespeare came into play in the novels ending, which includes a performance of Pyramus & Thisbe for the couples in the book, using Shakespeare's rendering of many of the lines (drawn from A Midsummer Night's Dream). Fans of any of the three authors will likely get a kick out of the Jeopardy game. But I digress.

Rather than an anthology containing three novellas, The Lady Most Likely is presented as a single-arc narrative. Lady Carolyn Finchley, the sister of the horse-mad Earl of Briarly, has been charged with composing a list of possible wives for him. She and her husband host a house party, inviting likely, eligible girls and their chaperones, as well as pulling in some eligible bachelors. Lady Carolyn is also keen to see her best friend, the young but widowed Lady Georgina Sorrell, remarried, you see. It is patently obvious to any experienced romance reader that Hugh (the Earl) and Georgie (the widow) are made for each other, so it is therefore no surprise when that turns out to be the final romance within the novel (penned by Eloisa James - I did the legwork, you see, to find out who wrote what) - and the one with the most explicit romantic payoff, if you get my meaning (and I think you do).

The Earl's sister's first choice as Hugh's wife is Miss Gwendolyn Passmore, this season's "incomparable", who is painfully shy. Another young lady, Octavia Darlington, quite resents Gwen taking up the time and attention of so very many eligible bachelors, and her brother, Alec (the Earl of Charters) does his best to appropriate some of Gwen's time in order to leave Octavia an open field - at least, that's his initial rationale. Their story is charmingly told by Julia Quinn (and involves a rather spectacular "wet man in a pond" scene, a la Mr Darcy in the 1995 P&P, only with less clothing).

Lady Carolyn's second choice for Hugh's wife is Miss Katherine Peyton, a plainspoken woman from the countryside who grew up in a household full of boys. She has long carried a torch for Neill Oakes, now a war hero with the title of "Captain" before his name. Captain Oakes would be only too happy to woo Katherine, despite having been Carolyn's choice to marry the widowed Georgie, but upon his arrival at the estate, Katherine's brother essentially tagged him and made him "it" - in this case, "it" being Katherine's chaperone. Connie Brockway manages to make their crossed purposes quite entertaining, from a memorable entry by the good captain to a rather splendid declaration of love.

Lady Carolyn Finchley is, of course, delighted with the particular turn of events that closes the book, when Hugh chooses his own woman (Georgina), who was not on the list at all.


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