Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right
Lady Poppy Smith- Barnes has been deflected suitors for years by claiming to be in love with the Duke of Drummond, a character made up by her chef. She is a member of the Spinsters Club and all the members have taken an oath only to marry for love and Poppy is in love with Sergei, a Russian Prince, and she has been using Drummond as an excuse. Nicholas Staunton is the newly appointed Duke of Drummond since his uncle disappeared years ago and left him the title no one has heard of. He is also a member of The Service, a government organization dedicated to seeking out spies and protecting classified information. His commanding officer, Group, has deemed that it is time for Nicholas to give up his debauched ways and succumb to his Inevitable Fate by marrying and no one is more perfect than Poppy- the woman who everyone already believes is in love with him. When Sergei and his twin sister, Natasha, comes to town, Poppy sees it as the perfect opportunity to rekindle their romance and she is horrified when Drummond appears at a party.
Nicholas is very pleased to find that his future wife-to-be is so pretty, spirited, and intelligent, and believes they will suit very well if he can make Poppy agree to the match. The two are just pretending to be in love, but she does intend to call it off even while he has no plans to agree to this arrangement. The more time Poppy spends with Sergei, the more she is beginning to realize that he is spoiled, selfish, and completely inappropriate. Surprisingly it is Nicholas she is intrigued by; she wants to spend more time with him, wants to find out what he is so secretive about, and she definitely wants more of his kisses. Meanwhile Nicholas and Poppy join forces to try to steal back the "Pink Lady" painting, which is in Sergei's possession, because it is supposed to reveal the identity of a British spy. But unfortunately Sergei's twin sister wants Nicholas, and the painting for herself, and she has trick or two up her sleeve. Poppy and Nicholas' happy ending is not a sure thing and will take a lot of trust, a lot of love, and a lot of intrigue before the two of them get their happily ever after.
Every book that features a heroine who is originally in love with another man has to carefully work around a big issue: the heroine is in love with someone, but we need her to fall out of love with him for some reason, without making her look like an idiot for falling in love with him in the first place. This book skirts that issue almost cleanly by making her very young when she fell in love, but then I found her ridiculous for falling in love so young and nurturing her love for so long even with no encouragement from him. But Poppy was still likable, especially in how eager to jump into the midst of anything without coming across as overeager or risking her life to no purpose. Nicholas was enjoyable in the way every romance novel hero is; he's strong, protective, intelligent, rich, and a member of a secret organization. Poppy and Nicholas worked well together, as evidenced by their partnership in getting back the painting, and I can see them having a happy marriage. Despite the large amounts of steam prevalent throughout the book the eventual sex scene was lackluster and faaaarrrr too late in the book.
I will admit that basically every non-romance aspect of this book was completely ridiculous and so far-fetched that the book was almost camp. The Service was confusing in that I couldn't figure out what it's mission was or why it was founded or how they had gotten all these high ranking Lords involved in it. The painting was also comical because I cannot imagine why a painter would have painted a spy's identity into a painting instead of just sending it in a note. At least in a note one could use code, instead of having an actual person painted in there. I did like that the painting turned out to be a memory of Poppy's mother and that it lead to a really great scene between Poppy and her father. Poppy and her father's relationship in general was a high point in this book because she was like a little girl desperately seeking her father's love and approval, and while he did love her he just didn't know how to show it. The Russian twins were hilarious in a very ha-ha way and nearly every scene where they were featured made me laugh as they were just so over the top.
Rating: Better than her previous effort in my opinion, with some enjoyable elements, but the book has to be read with a sense of humor. Between 3 and 4 hearts.