If you’re not familiar with the “Playful Brides” series, all the books are based (loosely) on famous plays. Book #8 is based on Romeo and Juliet (although obviously not a tragedy, because…romance.) This one gives us the story of Hart and Meg, first introduced in Book #6, The Legendary Lord (previously reviewed here). I was really looking forward to this particular couple, but did it meet my expectations?
THE PLOT: Poor Meg Timmons has been in love with her best friend’s brother, Hart, forever. Too bad their families are enemies for a mysterious reason (actually, there are enough clues to figure it out before the big reveal). Meg’s family is dirt poor, so Meg can’t afford the kind of wardrobe it would take to really capture Hart’s interest at balls…or anyone else’s interest, for that matter. Hart’s sister Sarah tells Meg that Hart has finally decided to find himself a wife, but Meg despairs of ever winning him. Enter meddler extraordinaire Lucy Hunt, Duchess of Claringdon (star of Book 1, The Unexpected Duchess).
Lucy takes Meg under her wing, dressing her in new gowns and jewels designed to capture Hart’s attention, and drags her to society balls and parties. Hart takes the bait, and a relationship begins to develop…just not quickly enough for circumstances. So when the meddling eventually goes too far, misunderstandings and mixed messages may tear the lovers apart.
MY TWO CENTS: First, let me get this out of my system: This book suffers from a surplus of Lucy Hunt. I know, she’s known for being kind of a lovable manipulator, but in this story she gets downright annoying. I’ve never been a fan of how she calls everyone “dear,” the way a diner waitress will refer to customers as “hun,” but it seems especially overdone in this title. Plus, she just couldn’t quit and wouldn’t butt out the two or three times Meg told her to.
Second, I was really enjoying this book right up until Hart became an ass. For the first half of the book, Hart defends Meg from her horrible family. He offers to dance with her at balls, thereby making her more visible to eligible gentlemen. He likes her. They develop a friendship. He confides to her the horrible thing that caused him to break up with the woman he almost married. This is all fun relationship building. So you would think the rapport Hart and Meg have developed before the “big misunderstanding” occurs would see them through…but it doesn’t. Hart takes the first opportunity to turn against Meg, and I never forgive him for that.
I really thought after a scene of our duo being safely rescued after “accidentally” being locked in the silver closet, and after Hart confessing how much he’s afraid of being trapped into marriage, that we would not get the “trapped into marriage” trope. And that even if we did, Hart would realize that gentle Meg, his friend, would not be the architect of that trap. Nope; we get Hart raging around like an animal for the second half the book while Meg doesn’t know what to do.
I have no patience with this. If I were Meg, the conversation on their wedding night would have gone something like this:
Hart: I refuse to consummate the marriage! Therefore, you will never have the happy marriage you want, or children, or a family!
Meg: But what I really wanted was to be rich, stay in London, be free of my parents, and never have a man touch me, so actually I have everything I want. Toodles.
Hart: Well…in that case, we WILL consummate the marriage!
Meg: So you’re so much like your father that you’ll do the exact opposite of whatever anyone tells you just to be contrary, even if it’s something you don’t want?
Hart: … (disappears in a puff of logic)
So yeah, first half, good (as a bonus, there’s lots of descriptions of gorgeous gowns…I was really loving the Cinderella aspect of the story!) but second half…I’m not a fan.
Is it like Romeo and Juliet? Well, the families are enemies. A surplus of interference almost does them in (metaphorically). And there’s plenty of verbal poison floating around. Romeo and Juliet is even mentioned a few times, which makes sense in the context of the time period.
COVER NOTES: Between this one and the one for the next book, it looks like the series theme was reinvented again, somewhat. Still a clinch couple, back to more of the headless man pose of the first five books, but with a lush landscape added instead of the one solid color. The colors and florals are pretty and romantic. I like the cover on its own; less so when I realize this is probably the pivotal scene that turns the tide of the book.
BOTTOM LINE: Good up until the hero was a jerk and a friend became downright annoying.
TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.
NEXT UP IN SERIES: A Duke Like No Other, focusing on Mark Grimaldi, will be available May 1, 2018.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.