This is the sixth entry in Valerie Bowman’s “Playful Brides” series, in which each book is based on a famous play. This one is very loosely based on Pygmalion, and features everyone’s best friend, Christian, Viscount Berkley. (Check out other entries on the “Playful Brides” books throughout my blog.)
THE PLOT: Christian is tired of playing the part of “helpful friend” to all his female acquaintances, who have gone on to their happily-ever-afters with other men. He retreats to his estate in Scotland, hoping for some solitude, only to find a runaway lady hiding in his house.
Lady Sarah freaked out at the idea of marrying a marquess who is mostly in love with himself. She’s run away to Scotland to what she thought was her father’s hunting lodge, but she picked the wrong house, her chaperone has been injured, and now she’s stuck in a snowstorm alone with a man she doesn’t know and on the verge of ruination. After bonding over some stew and biscuits, Christian opens up to Lady Sarah about his women problems and makes her a deal: he’ll help hide the fact that she ran away and save her reputation if she helps mold him into society’s most eligible bachelor.
There’s an obvious solution to both their problems —marry each other. But immediate chemistry aside, Sarah is obedient to her parents, who want this match with the marquess; Christian may have more holding him back from marriage than just the wrong tailor. It will take all their combined friends beating these two over the head to get them together.
MY TWO CENTS: I have pretty much loved all the “Playful Brides” books, but this one was not my favorite. The first problem for me was that Christian and Sarah are just both too darn nice. Their trapped-in-the-snowstorm-getting-to-know-you scenes went on too long for my taste and were just too bland. Christian has been getting friend-zoned for five books now, and I feel like he needed someone more his opposite to pull him out of the rut. Like a female pirate, or a partially reformed prostitute, or something. Not an equally nice but independence-challenged young lady who knits and cooks.
The pace picks up once Lucy, Cass, Jane, and other characters from previous books get in on the act. Everyone can see that these two are perfect for each other, so they’re going to do everything they can to make the match happen. They all owe Christian and want to see him happy. Too bad his soul mate has the backbone of a dishrag.
Okay, I’m being unfair. By the end of the book, Sarah has figured out that she needs to start standing up for herself…but it’s the last 20 pages of the book. I’d rather see a heroine who learns at least halfway through the book that she has decision-making power. Telling the reader that from now on she’s going to put herself first is nice, but I would have liked to have seen that growth.
There are some exceptionally fiery love scenes when they finally do get together (I guess it’s the quiet ones you have to watch), but it also feels slightly out of character for Sarah. She won’t say no to her parents, but she’ll indulge in sexual exploration? Hmmm.
COVER NOTES: This cover is a slight transition from the first five books, which were often headless/more closeup on the couple. The execution is similar, with one dominant color (in this case, white), but we see more of the couple. From the newly released cover for the next book, I’d say this is the new direction for the series. Bonus points for showing Sarah wearing a dress described in the book.
BOTTOM LINE: Readers of the series will want to read this one, too, but I wouldn’t recommend it as the book to read to get someone hooked on the series. The story picks up in the second half, but I find Sarah’s best friend more interesting than her. I just feel like Christian deserved better.
TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available November 1, 2016, in paperback and eformats.
NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Never Trust a Pirate, book 7 in the series, will be published in May 2017. It will feature Cade Cavendish, twin of Rafe Cavendish from book 4, The Irresistible Rogue. I’m always up for a good pirate story. Afterward, I’d bet we’re heading toward the story of Sarah’s brother and best friend.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.