(Love by Numbers, #1)
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1813 and 1823)
A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen’s club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried – and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she’s vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she’s been missing.
But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss – to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St John, the Marquess of Ralston – charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all – the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love . . .
I’m not sure why I have waited so long to read Sarah MacLean’s debut novel because friends have constantly recommended it to me. Well, I’ve finally read it and I absolutely LOVED it! Ms MacLean brings something refreshing to the much used “rake falls for wallflower” trope and I was impressed by her writing and the way she brings her characters to life and makes me really care about them.
I adore Lady Calpurnia “Callie” Hartwell because she is someone I can relate to. Instead of drop dead gorgeous like so many heroines, she is a plain, slightly plump, lace-cap-wearing, 28-year-old spinster with a pristine reputation and the same insecurities I’m sure many of us can share. She is also such a lovable person…intelligent, kind-hearted and funny. My heart went out to Callie when she realises just how boring, staid and uninteresting her life has become and I desperately wanted her to do all those things on her list; to become bold and adventurous and experience life to the full. She deserves it.
Gabriel is charming, devastatingly handsome and one of the most notorious rakes in London but he also has a strong sense of family. It is evident in his love for his twin brother Nicholas and his determination that his illegitimate half-sister Juliana should be accepted by society. I could also understand how the scandalous and painful events of his past have coloured his views on love.
Gabriel and Callie are such a wonderful couple with great chemistry and I loved every moment spent with them – their sparkling dialogue; their first kiss which has an unexpected effect on Gabriel; the amusing whisky drinking episode in the tavern which leaves Callie slightly tiddly; the fencing match resulting in some heated moments; the gambling with the ultimate forfeit; the duel that doesn’t quite go to plan.
They are both on a journey of self-discovery. Gabriel believes himself incapable of love but Callie slowly but surely steals his heart.
“I love you. I love your extravagant name and your beautiful face and your brilliant mind and your ridiculous list and your taste for adventure, which I imagine is very likely going to be the actual cause of my death.”
Callie has always believed she is plain but I love Gabriel for showing her that she is beautiful in all the ways that count.
“Hear me well. I cannot begin to list all the things about you that are beautiful—a man could lose himself in your eyes; in your lovely, full lips; in your silken hair; in your soft, luscious curves; in your creamy, perfect skin and the way you blush and turn it the color of an exquisite, ripe peach. And that’s without considering your warmth, your intelligence, your humor, and the way I am utterly drawn to you when you enter a room.”
Among the secondary characters, I was particularly intrigued by Nicholas, Gabriel’s twin brother, an antiquity expert, and Juliana, their illegitimate half-sister, who is a real firebrand and I’m keen to read their stories.
MY VERDICT: This is an utterly delightful novel and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Highly recommended!
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read July 2016
Love by Numbers series (click on the book covers for more details):