Lady Perdita Garland is not interested in marriage. She's only just arrived back in society after a two-year hiatus, having recovered from a riding injury and a nasty encounter with a fortune hunter. But when she gets a look at the man that her family has decided will be a good match for her, she's intrigued. Charles Dalton, Marquess of Petherbridge, certainly doesn't look like a grieving widower with a young child. Painted, patched, and perfumed, he is the epitome of a French exquisite. Not the type of man Perdita favors at all. Except, strangely, she is attracted to him - pink coat, powdered wig, and all. She enjoys his company and his conversation and believes that she may have found someone special. That is, until she meets his young daughter, Aimée, who is unpleasant and spoiled beyond belief and who obviously detests her.
When Charles's headstrong younger sister elopes with a fortune hunter and kidnaps Charles's daughter to use as leverage against him, Perdita is stunned and horrified. The man that the girl has taken up with is the very same fortune hunter who ruined Perdita two years ago. Burdened with guilt for not having warned Charles of the other man's misdeeds, Perdita determines to help rescue Charles's sister and daughter whether or not he wants the assistance. And so begins an adventure that will take Charles and Perdita to the seedier side of Liverpool, where Perdita will meet and fall in love with the man behind the mask of the French court.
But however much love and passion Charles and Perdita find together, there is still a road-block that prevents them from having a future. The spoiled young Aimée has no intention of sharing her beloved father, and with him wrapped around her tiny finger, she is bound to get her way.
Historical novels. We either love them and read them by the dozen, or we tend to avoid them and let our review partner read them instead. You can probably tell where I fall in that range; I burned out on historicals years ago, so it takes something really special in this genre to get my engine revved. Thankfully, I've found that something special, and that something - or rather someone - is an author by the name of Lynne Connolly. After having been utterly charmed by Richard and Rose in Yorkshire, I dived face first into yet another story by this talented author: Met By Chance. Whether or not you are a fan of historical romance, you are in for a treat when you pick up Met By Chance.
Before I stumbled across Ms. Connolly's work, I hadn't read many novels set in the eighteenth century. Certainly, I've read boatloads of Regency novels, but the Georgian period is somewhat akin to undiscovered territory for me. Therefore, a small part of my enjoyment of this story was simply being introduced to the manners and mores of this time. Ms. Connolly's book trapped me in a web spun by her talented narrative; I was captivated with her characters and was drawn completely into their world and their conflict. By the time the conflict resolved, the setting was familiar and the characters were friends, and I was saddened to see the story come to an end.
The world of Met by Chance is not all perfumed ballrooms and silk gowns. We also have the chance to visit the "everyday" life of the period, which is the complete opposite of the glittering world of society. It is a frequently harsh, rough, dangerous world, filled with noise and odor and uncertainty, and Ms. Connolly brings it to colorful life in this story.
However beautiful the setting or clever the plot, a story is nothing without memorable characters. In Met by Chance, Ms. Connolly gives us characters who leave an impression, from her hero and heroine down to the secondary players. Lady Perdita Garland is no swooning miss whose sole purpose I life is to flutter her eyelashes and blush behind a fan. She is a grown woman with a mind of her own who has learned life's unpleasant lessons, and while she is still bound by many of the rules of the polite society of the time, she is independent enough to bend them to suit herself. She has the strength to realize that she cannot compete with a child for Charles's affection and the determination not to allow that child to rule her life, and I couldn't help but admire her for these admirable traits.
Charles is also unique, with his outrageous clothing and maquillage of the French court. Yet however strange his accoutrements and his affectations, he is a very human character that we can't help but adore. He is human to a fault, in fact, which is apparent in his treatment of his daughter, who is his great weakness and who is spoiled to the point of being a little monster.
With its blend of sensual romance, action and danger, and just a touch of humor (how can we not grin at a kiss between the hero and heroine that smears his makeup instead of hers?), Met by Chance has a little bit of everything, and it all adds up to a thoroughly delightful novel. I find Ms. Connolly's writing to be quite addictive; as soon as I finish one of her stories, I want to begin another. Good thing she has quite a few to choose from, then, because I will without a doubt be spending a lot of time in the future with my nose buried in her stories.