(The Dressmakers, #4)
Genre: Historical Romance (Late Regency , 1835)
Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can’t see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax’s nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child is in trouble, she turns to tall, dark, and annoying barrister Oliver Radford.
Though he’s unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford’s never been part of fashionable society, and the blonde beauty, though not entirely bereft of brains, isn’t part of his plans. But Clara overwhelms even his infallible logic, and when wedlock looms, all he can do is try not to lose his head over her.
It’s an inconvenient marriage by ordinary standards, but these two are far from ordinary. Can the ton’s most adored heiress and London’s most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?
This, the final book in Loretta Chase’s The Dressmakers series, is Lady Clara Fairfax’s story. Lady Clara has been a popular secondary character throughout the series and I am delighted that she finally gets her well-deserved Happy Ever After. Although this book can easily be read as a standalone, I would urge you not to miss out on the other delightful books in the series.
Being considered the most beautiful and sought after girl in London might seem every girl’s ultimate wish, but for Lady Clara it is nothing but a burden. She is weary of the constant marriage proposals from men who never take the trouble to get to know the real person behind the beautiful face.
Her beauty surrounded her like a great stone wall. Men couldn’t see above, beyond, or through it. They certainly couldn’t think past it.
Intelligent, witty and strong-willed, Clara is stifled by the constraints imposed on her by society. She wants more from life than just being a beautiful adornment on a duke’s arm. She longs for a husband who appreciates her intelligence, challenges her and stimulates her mind.
As patroness of The Milliners Society for the Education of Indigent Females, she is very aware of the poverty that exists and the injustices inflicted on those less fortunate than herself. It is her charitable work that leads her to Oliver Radford’s door, when she enlists his help to rescue an orphan boy from the clutches of an unsavoury London street gang.
Oliver “Raven” Radford is the grandson of a duke but, when his father married a divorcée, his became the less desirable arm of the family. At Eton, he was continually bullied by his odious cousin Bernard, but survived by becoming detached and locking his emotions away.
He pretended that what was happening to him happened to somebody quite separate, that what he felt was felt by another self, who he observed with detachment.
Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a barrister and has earned a reputation for being super-intelligent, sharp-witted, provoking and tactless. His willingness to prosecute the villains of London’s underworld, who prey on helpless victims, has earned him dangerous enemies.
When the beautiful Lady Clara enters in world, he finds all logical and sensible thoughts flying out of the window.
The chemistry between these two is absolutely delicious and they are so well-matched. Both are intelligent which makes Clara more than a match for the caustic Radford. I love their sarcastic repartee and Radford’s funny internal monologues between his logical self and his emotional, irrational self.
Remarkably fine figure, he was aware of his irrational self thinking. It proceeded to imagine said figure in its natural state. Such meditations were not conducive to clear thinking.
He wrestled the other self into a dark corner in the back of his mind …
The scene where Radford nurses Clara after she falls sick reveals how much he truly cares for her and I love the unique concept of the “trial” scene, showing his determination to fight for Clara.
As in the previous books, Ms Chase’s descriptions of the outrageous hats and the wondrous confections of gowns are a visual treat and I like how her social commentary on women’s role in society and the poverty and injustice existing at the time is woven into the fabric of the story.
…a lady must not find herself in any situation involving lawyers. If she was so misguided as to need one, she must put the matter in the hands of her husband, father, guardian, brother or son.
The danger lurking in the form of a London underworld gang leader intent on killing Radford, his complicated relationship with his cousin Bernard and the need to adapt to his unwelcome change in circumstances, all add extra layers to the story.
MY VERDICT: A fabulous finale to this series and one I can definitely recommend.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read January 2016
The Dressmakers series (click on the book covers for more details):