Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How The Marquess Was Won, by Julie Anne Long

It makes sense that as a huge fan of historical romances, there are a few novelists I gravitate to naturally. But there are only two authors in that genre who I’m willing to bet will never disappoint.  One is Grace Burrowes and the other is Julie Anne Long. Ms. Long’s newest novel, How the Marquess Was Won: Pennyroyal Green Series, proves my point yet again. Her voice is unique, sophisticated and polished - consistently so. So when opportunity knocked, I answered with alacrity and found an advanced reader’s copy of Marquess in my hands.  Sometimes, things just cannot get any better.

Ms. Long starts the story almost at the end – an intriguing way to begin. We find Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, bleeding from a gunshot wound and professing a most uncharacteristic and unfortunately for him, unrequited love as Colin and Chase Eversea (of the infamous Eversea family, subjects of the author’s other Pennyroyal books) tend to his wound.  This scene does exactly what it is intended to do – we are now insatiably curious and want to know with whom Lord Ice (as this particular haughty member of the aristocracy is also known) has fallen in love and why he sounds as if his world has ended (bullet hole in his shoulder notwithstanding).  Chapter Two takes us to a time six weeks earlier, before he's even aware of the woman responsible for his current heartache.

But Phoebe Vale is certainly aware of him. Marquess Dryden is a frequent topic of the London broadsheets Phoebe devours when she isn’t teaching Latin, Greek and French history to potentially problematic young ladies in Miss Marietta Endicott’s Academy. Through the spectacular stories in the broadsheets, Phoebe knows Lord Ice is the current trendsetter – the man everyone emulates – a cool, calculating customer and a very wealthy member of the aristocracy. And it seems he is now in the market for a wife.  His life, and the comings and goings of others like him, fascinate Phoebe, but she understands her place in the world. Once a charity student at the academy, Phoebe is in an entirely different social sphere. She is also alone, but for Miss Endicott and her students, and has recently made a life changing decision that will take her far from Pennyroyal Green. 

But before Phoebe can pack her bags, a series of events throws her in the path of Lord Ice. This string of circumstance provides the framework for an enticing tug of war between a reluctant Phoebe and an extremely determined Julian.  Eventually, we are led to an astonishingly satisfying ending (the continuation of the first chapter). But I will leave the delicious particulars of this journey for you to discover for yourself.  As in What I Did for a Duke (reviewed February 22, 2011), Ms. Long infuses this solid story with crisp narrative, lovely dialog, subtle humor and plenty of heart. Her track record with me remains unbroken. How the Marquess Was Won is a clear winner.