Skeptic scale: ♥♥♥♥
Lovely, beautifully written and so, so sweet.
Lucy loves Toby. Toby loves Sophia. And Jeremy loves Lucy. Love is so complicated, n'est pas?
This could have turned into a hilarious romp in the vein of The Importance of Being Ernest (one of the most wonderful books I have ever read), but it was just too sincere and well, earnest, to be anything other than a darling story about love growing between friends.
She: Lucy is the younger sister of a slightly distracted, but loving brother who has practically grown up with her brother's two best friends Toby and Jeremy. She has formed a tendre for dashing and handsome Toby who had playfully crowned her Diana, Goddess of the Hunt once when he was in a particularly flirtatious mood. She is convinced that he's the man for her even though everyone else disagrees and sets out to seduce him in order to prove her point.
He: Jeremy is the serious one of the three friends and has been the self-appointed look-out for Lucy and her various scrapes with disaster. He has always known she is special but doesn't really let himself go for it with her because she is his best friends sister and there are Rules against that kind of thing. Plus he's an Earl and has to marry someone suitable - Lucy, for all her charms, hardly fits the mold for his perfect countess.
Conflict: First of all there is a whole love triangle. That one is solved in the first 50% of the book. The last 50% deals with a whole series of misunderstandings that keep the two apart.
1) The words. I LOVED all the WORDS. I cannot say enough about romance writers who treat this genre like it's "proper" literature.
2) The heroine is a bit of a dummy (she's young), but she's a ball of unstoppable energy that just made me smile. She does a lot of dumb things but she's pretty funny doing them, so I didn't mind too much. And despite her youth, she doesn't really need anyone to take care of her which is also a departure as far as young-girl-weds-older-man tropes go.
3) The female friendships in the story. I liked that the ladies were complicated and wanted different things but still found a way to bond. I liked that there was honestly between friends and that the women showed true regard and sympathy for one other.
What wasn't as awesome:
1) I think the "Series of Misunderstandings" conflict is a bit overdone. I realize this book was written years ago, but I just think when all the tension between the hero and heroine can be instantly dissolved with a single honest discussion between the characters, then it's all a bit silly that it isn't being instantly solved with that conversation.
"Goddess he may have dubbed her, but the worship was all on Lucy's side"
"He employed six-and-twenty footmen - in London alone - to heed to his every command. Now he catered to the whims of a despot in dotted muslin."
"This wasn't a blind, mindless craving for anything woman and willing. This was needing with a name."