ALL SMILES is the second book in Stella's new Mayfair Square series and it is a worthy successor to MORE AND MORE, the first book in the series. It is 1821 and Jean-Marc, Count Etranger from Mont Nuages, has come to London for his 17-year old sister's debut in society, an onerous task but one he is determined to accomplish. When Meg Smiles, the impoverished daughter of a country parson and resident of #7 Mayfair Square, brazens her way into his home offering to help prepare Princess Desiree for her debut, he readily agrees. Not only does he need help with Desiree but he also finds Meg quite compelling in her own right, even though she is far beneath him socially and completely "unsuitable." Add a meddlesome ghost, delightful secondary characters and a huge gray cat and what follows is a classic British romp with quirky characters, sparkling wit, a whiff of danger to spice things up, and plenty of sensuous romance.
Stella has outdone herself in ALL SMILES. The wry, dry wit was just delightful. Jean-Marc, the hero, is a harmless (but loud) blusterer. Meg, the heroine, is a spunky and eccentric foil for him. They are clearly meant for each other no matter how they struggle against it. I cheered them on as they learned about themselves and each other. And as much as I enjoyed the hero and heroine, the secondary characters just glowed. Princess Desiree is a very precocious 17 year old and sister to Jean-Marc. Verbeux is a sexy but very mysterious valet. Ila Upworth is a "fallen woman" with an agenda of her own. Sibyl Smiles is Meg's sister who watches in horror as Meg becomes closer and closer to the unattainable Jean-Marc. And the troublesome ghost, Sir Septimus Spivey, simply cannot remain quietly in his newel post in the front hall of #7 and stirs things up hilariously. The other residents of #7 also make many appearances and each character continues to develop leaving me eager to read their stories.