Lady Charlotte Hayward has made a science out of Not Marrying. Despite having had eight seasons and fielded many proposals of marriage, she has accepted none of them. She could write a book for any young lady attempting to get out of a relationship. She becomes frantic when her father decides, in her best interest, to invite eligible bachelors to a house party in a few weeks.
Darius Carsington is the youngest son of the Earl of Hargate. He has devoted his life to scientific studies, especially those relating to animal husbandry and mating. Darius has written many pamphlets on farming practices and has long been admired by his new neighbor the Marquis of Lithby--and Charlotte's father.
The two are thrown into contact early in the book, and both Charlotte and Darius attempt to deny their growing feelings for one another. The book may have been merely a romance of ignoring attraction, but Chase throws in one of Lady Charlotte's secrets to stir things up, and a "villain" in the form of another suitor, Colonel Morrell.
The "secret" that Charlotte holds was the biggest obstacle of the book for me. It's one of those romance cliches that make me grind my teeth and roll my eyes. I was disappointed in this especially after having read Lord Perfect, which was, well, perfect. Missing from this book was the witty dialog that is characteristic for Chase, and as a result the pacing was slower. Putting down this book was not a problem for me.
The characterization of Darius was also problematic for me. He is referred to as a rake, and the most incorrigible rake of all of Lord Hargate's sons. I had a problem seeing this. Sure, I was told that he was a rake, but apart from Darius thinking about bedding a maid (thinking, mind you) early in the book, I didn't see it. I saw how he was logical and methodical, but that was it. Also early in the book he constantly referenced to his "reproductive organs" any time Charlotte aroused him by her presence.
One redeeming factor of this book was the fact that Chase's villains are not the typical romance villain, like the counter-spy, or the French officer, or the horrid ex-mistress. No, the villain in this piece was Colonel Morrell, who has good intentions regarding his feelings for Charlotte. I understood exactly why he was motivated to "help" her. I hope that one day Chase writes his story.
Because of my reservations, I can't give this one an A like the previous book. Despite it's drawbacks, the quality of the writing was still high. B.