WHAT I DID FOR THE DUKE, which has become one of my favorite romances-- starring one of my favorite heroes-- so obviously that meant I was eager to devour all of her other regency romances. I was even more excited when I found out that it featured a vain and manipulative heroine because I love books that allow female characters to misbehave. The negative reviews disparaging her character didn't put me off in the least.
As I expected, I loved Cynthia Brightly. She's a beautiful woman who was dealt a bad hand of cards and is playing them as adeptly as she can. Her past is tragic and honestly-- I respected the hustle. She wasn't cruel or mean or anything else that other people were saying she was. At one point, she says that all men are capable of being charming and the hero tells her, no YOU make them charming; and it's true. Even though she is manipulative, it's not done out of malice. It's like she can see what makes people who they are at a glance and brings them out of their shells with their charm. That's why Violet befriended her and Georgina confided in her; she's pretty and charming and people want to absorb that glow. Or at least get to stand in it for a while, lest some of the glitter rub off.
For me, the rub of this book was Miles. I was initially excited when I found out that he was a hot and nerdy scientist who had a grudge against the heroine for a semi-cruel offhand remark that she made about him while he was in earshot. And at first I was kind of on board when he decided to casually torture her just a little bit while she's trying her luck on the man market. But then I lost interest in him pretty quickly: he's patronizing and condescending and-- honestly? Kind of a hypocrite. There is so much OW drama in this book because Miles is trying to woo Georgina because her father has the money and clout to fund more of his expeditions to the tropics (which he loves), and he's also trying to satisfy his needs with a MARRIED WOMAN because obviously he can't do that with Georgina and he's so determined to dislike and stay away from Cynthia that she's not "fair game" either.
Honestly-- at several points in the book, I really, really disliked him. It's shocking but not surprising to me that none of the reviews calling Cynthia the worst woman in the world for playing men off on each other have anything to say about Miles using one woman for her daddy's money while attempting to commit some casual adultery with another. And FYI the only reason he doesn't is because the heroine comes to his room and begs him not to. WOW.
There were parts of this book that were really enjoyable, like the drinking game, Cynthia herself, and the comedy of manors that took place at the manor, but I really didn't care for the romance itself much at all. It's a shame because there's a serious dearth of nerdy hero romances out there. The worst I've read was called NERD IN SHINING ARMOR and the best was called BAD DECISIONS. This book kind of sits in the middle of those two books because there was some redemption and realization of what a cad he was, but to me it didn't really make up for the 300+ pages of shenanigans that came before it.
2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars