Been a few months since I read a straight-up romance novel--actually March, whoa! But Miranda Neville's The Wild Marquis reconfirms the genre as one I'll keep coming back to.
I had to read this first in the series of which The Dangerous Viscount is a part after learning the heroine is a bookseller. I do so love historical heroines with jobs, and one so close to my own is nigh-irresistible. Juliana Merton is a widow who's struggling to keep her murdered husband's rare book shop open despite the London bibliophiles' prejudice against a woman in the trade. She learned about books at the feet of the man who raised her as his ward, whom she believes to be her true grandfather. He drove himself to ruin buying expensive volumes, and sold off his collection to the unscrupulous Sir Thomas Tarleton, whose recent death has left his vast collection at auction to settle Tarleton's own book-driven debts.
The showpiece of the collection is the Burgundy Hours, a fifteenth-century illuminated masterpiece--and the Marquis of Chase is mystified as to how it ended up in Tarleton's hands, since it was an heirloom of his own family. Ejected from the house of his fanatical and cruel father at the age of sixteen, Chase has led the proverbial life of dissipation, boinking actresses and hiring former prostitutes as servants. But now he's inherited his father's title and wealth, and one of the things he wants to do with it is get the Burgundy Hours back. To this end, he hires Juliana to represent him at the auction.
This book is great! There are mysteries to be solved (Joseph Merton's murder, Tarleton's acquisition of the hours, who tries to frame Juliana for theft by hiding a volume from the auction--a Romeo & Juliet folio she believes belonged to her mother, Juliana's true parentage), two wounded leads, believable misunderstandings--and my favorite, some laughing during lovemaking. I love couples that can be goofy together even in amorous circumstances; it's such a good sign for a relationship. And of course, there's tons of book talk and interesting facts, bolstered by Neville's real-world years in Sotheby's rare books department (man, there's a job, huh?). Excited for the other two titles in the series--The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton (AAH BEST TITLE) and Confessions from an Arranged Marriage--already sitting happily on my shelf. (And, thanks to my co-worker Stacey, signed by the author!)