Skeptic scale: ♥♥♥♥♥
Fallen women have all the fun.
I absolutely devoured this book. Loved it and said "awwww" out loud at least three times and didn't care that I was being a pathetic drip.
She: Illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who works in a gentlemen's gaming club. She's not your normal "ruined woman" heroine - you know the ones who have lost their virtue but retain an ethereal innocence that attracts the rakish hero. Nope. She's wicked and she has a lot of fun with it.
He: Duke who has to give up his raking ways to marry before he turns thirty or he loses his fortune. Obviously, he looks for ladies of gentle breeding and noble birth as befits his station in life. But since he's a rake and intractable roue he can't help but be charmed by the decidedly un-virtuous h.
1) SE took some risks with both h & H - both are highly "modern" characters in their attitudes. But this risk was well worth it because both h & H were so sweet, so lovable, that you can't help but root for them. I actually think the modernity of especially the h's behavior when it comes to sex was dealt with so well that every girl in 2013 could sympathize acutely
2) The H is "hard to pin down" - he is described as detached, unemotional, moody and an all-round ducal bad@ss but he is so nice to the h and to everyone else that it doesn't quite fit with the description - doesn't fit, that is, until you see that the dark descriptions are reflective of what he thinks of himself, not a true description of his character. He is, in reality an all-round nice guy - he is nice to dogs, his servants, ladies (even fallen ones) and his shrew of a sister.
3) I loved the setting. I don't often read Regency romances set in almost Wuthering Heights-like bleakness. It's winter and everything is cold and dreary and you can almost feel the warmth lit by these two people - it's all very cozy and romantic. The Lit majors can discuss the metaphors of the icy conditions of his heart being reflected by his surroundings etc etc. but I shall only say that it was interesting and refreshing to watch the characters romp about in the snow and ice as opposed to walking sedately in the inevitable verdure of an English garden
1) I didn't really get the sister character. She seemed to have a serious motive for the H not marrying so not sure why she was pressuring him to wed anyone at all. But ultimately I don't think it mattered that much. She was supposed to one of the villains so it's fine that she was not acting entirely rationally. Also, maybe she was also just terribly sad and embittered by her awful father and did a poorer job than her brother in coming out as a more graceful adult
2) Grey eyes for H and green eyes for h - this is something of SE's calling card and it feels overdone. I am a lover of this combination, true, but there are only so many times one can be entranced by descriptions of grey and green. There is one point where she refers to the H and also a previous H from a prior book - and there is a slightly awkward tangle where she tries to come up with different ways to describe the color grey. It was slightly amusing but also maybe a hint that the time has come for say a brown-eyed H? Tawny, whiskey-colored, coffee, mahogany, amber - pick your overcooked description!
Obviously, this is a personal preference and does nothing at all to detract from the overall awesomeness of the book!