Devourer of books with a preference for fiction. Quite good at competitive reading. Happily hoards books of all kinds. Gets stabby going too long without reading.
James, Viscount Matheson has newly come into the title and wishes to marry a suitable young lady as quickly as possible, seeing as his sister, now widowed, was embroiled in a terrible scandal due to her philandering husband and a very public scene with a mistress before he died. Matheson's mother wishes him to restore the family reputation. So he is very pleased when he meets the quiet and pleasant Miss Louisa Oliver in the library at a society ball. Proposing to her after but a short acquaintance, he goes to see her family and is then introduced to Louisa's vivacious and lively step-sister, Julia Herington. After just a short time, James begins to fear he may have proposed too soon.
Miss Louisa Oliver hated being out in society and felt that she really couldn't turn down the proposal of a Viscount, even though she's honestly not sure she's ready for marriage yet, if ever. All she really wants to do is stay at home with her family, reading and organising the library. Julia is overjoyed that her sister has made such a good match, and even more so once she actually meets James. She knows that her sister hates attention and scrutiny, but believes that James' wit and enthusiasm may bring Louisa out of her shell a bit more. She hopes she may one day meet a man as nice and agreeable as he.
Louisa manages to persuade James to postpone the wedding until Julia has had her season, and the two sisters go to London accompanied by a fearsome widowed aunt as chaperone. Of course James and Julia pine hopelessly for one another, all the while hiding their true feelings from Louisa, whom they both care very much for, each other and the world in general. Louisa, for her part, keeps having misgivings about getting married, getting more and more determined to break off the engagement the longer she has to spend in society. Will James be able to finally declare his love for the right sister?
This book was far too long for what was really a very simple plot. I'm pretty sure it could have been covered in a novella. Honourable and kind peer of the realm contracts betrothal with one sister, falls madly in love with the other. She returns his feelings, the first sister doesn't really mind, as she doesn't love him and didn't really want to get married after all. His mother, who is a meddlesome shrew, try to complicate matters to separate them, is not successful.
There's quite a lot of time spent in libraries, which I don't exactly mind, because Louisa loves books and the organising of them, which I can thoroughly respect. She is shy, socially awkward, yet perfectly behaved. She knows that she may never make a match as good as a viscount, so can't really refuse a proposal, even though she feels nothing more than a general regard for Matheson. She's pretty much the polar opposite of her step-sister who is impulsive, exuberant, frequently speaks before she thinks and seems unable to be still for a second. The major complication here are that James and Julia are too honourable to do anything to hurt Louisa or act on their attraction towards each other (although they both tell themselves that they're just imagining the kind attentions of the other because of their infatuation).
One thing the book cannot be criticised for is the romance progressing too quickly. Several months, if not nearly a year passes over the course of the book. There are tours of James' estate, that he's modernising. At one point, Julia turns her ankle and is convalescent for six weeks. Then there's her season, which seems to be well under way. The problem is just that nothing much interesting happens. Louisa tries to solicit James help in finding a respectable suitor for Julia. He seethes with jealousy and tries to sabotage the search while on the surface being forced to play along.
The characters are perfectly pleasant, the story (if it were shorter) is diverting. It just dragged on. Romain is a good writer and uses chapter titles very amusingly. I was still waiting for the end to be in sight and for them to just "get on with it!" I'd heard many good things about this series on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author, but based on the first book, I hope the sequels are snappier and have more plot or I'm not going to be able to get through them.