Publication date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Series: Sydney Dovedale #3
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Jane Fresina brings readers back to Sydney Dovedale as two characters first introduced in her previous book, The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne, have their own happily-ever-after.
Lady Mercy Danforthe is a managing woman, who does it so well few have cause to complain. The only time she had ever let rash action reign over reason was when she hastily agreed to marry Rafe Hartley as a young girl of seventeen, a marriage that was declared void by her brother's intervention. In the five years since, she continued living the life of an aristocrat, though occasionally keeping an eye out for Rafe, such as when she masqueraded as an old woman to lend Rafe financial aid. Rafe has a farmer's soul, despite attempts from his father to turn him into a more polished man. As such, he tries to stay away from the aristocracy, especially ladies like Lady Mercy. But alas, fate conspires against him when his intended bride (who is Lady Mercy's maid, Molly Robbins) leaves him at the altar, and Lady Mercy is asked to "resolve the issue." What does Rafe realize? That he needs precisely Lady Mercy to step in and do right by him.
Lady Mercy, sister of the Earl of Everscham, is the very epitome of noblesse oblige. She's determined a course for herself as swiftly as she did for others, and voluntarily chosen to wed a boring man twice her age; preferring to devote her time to charities and the plights of unfortunate souls in the world, as well as matchmaking and giving advice to people. She's sensible, practical, and unduly stubborn when she has a new goal in sight, but she is also understanding and determined to end Rafe's self-imposed isolation from his loving family.
Rafe's constant fighting with his family gives him an air of inelegance, as he's always rebelled against the good wishes of his family due to some imagined inadequacy he feels. Mercy's leadership arose from her brother's inattention to her upbringing and her youthful loneliness, forcing her to confront and change the world rather than sitting forlorn in a corner, whereas Rafe just mopes and gets angry without intending any necessary action. He acts extremely childish for most of the book, pushing Mercy's help away, yet persisting in slating his lust with her. It takes him a very long time to simply say, "I want to be a farmer," instead of indulging in childish tantrums against his family without revealing his true intentions. I can't say there is much love between Rafe and Mercy beyond simple lust, but their relationship does grow, albeit slowly, to the point Rafe exhibits some strengthening of character at the end of the story. Regardless, Lady Mercy Flirts With Scandal is a relatively engaging read, if one doesn't require too much character and plot complexity.
And what will happen to Molly Robbins, now that she's decided a life as a farmer's life is not suited for her? Will she open up a dressmaking shop in London, and pursue a romance with Mercy's brother, Carver? I'm looking forward to reading Molly's story with Carver in the upcoming year!
Rating: 3.5 tulips
*ARC via The Romance Reviews