This book is sort of infuriating in a lot of ways. For one, the print is SO SMALL. Like, teensy tiny. What am I reading here, high-brow literature? Plus there are SO many little side-stories, all these secondary characters we’re supposed to care about. I’m pretty sure Candance Camp has, like, a dozen books planned for this circle of characters and she wants to make sure that all of them show up and have something to do in every single book but, frankly, I find it really annoying. I mean, yeah, whatever, you don’t just want a heroine who pines away for the hero and does nothing for an entire novel, but let’s leave the secondary characters to their own book and quit clogging up this one. Plus – and this is where I really start to zone out – almost all of the first 200 pages are them attending parties, them interacting with neighbors, them being introduced to Lady So-and-So and it is so ungoldly boring. I mean, who cares? Really? WHO CARES? Who is picking up romance novels and being like, oooh I can’t wait to hear about what this completely random made-up member of the lower elite is up to and how they feel and what kind of parties they attend! Who is doing that?! No one, that’s who. No one is doing that. It’s stupid and it wastes pages and it distracts from the real plot which is WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY DO THE SEX? (They will.) Stop world-building, Candace Camp. If you take all that crap out and double the font size you’d have a totally normal, respectable romance novel and I wouldn’t be yawn-sighing every two pages.
That said…I’m not ready to break up with Candace Camp just yet. There are a lot of things in the novel that I really enjoy. Like, I love how Vivian is kind of a girly-girl and loves dresses and shopping and she doesn’t make any apologies for it to anyone because that’s what she likes and that’s who she is, but also she’s kind of a rebel because she doesn’t see the point of marriage and she drives her own carriage and shoots guns and wants to buy her own house and so on. It’s almost like she’s a well-rounded, human character or something! How completely strange and weird! Plus Oliver is the most fuddy-duddy hero I’ve ever encountered. Instead of the usual rakish, rule-breaking, cardboard hero, Oliver is VERY concerned with propriety and the rules and How Things Are Done and he’s constantly lecturing Vivian, which gives Vivian a chance to mercilessly make fun of him and also get him all riled up and flustered. All told, it’s just really refreshing. Plus, it was VIVIAN who was like, “hey we’re hot for each other, we should fuck!” and Oliver who was all like, “my goodness gracious! my good heavens! my word! You can’t be serious! How improper!” which gives Vivian the chance to be like, “oh whatever you old dunderhead and also, ps, here are my boobs.” You know Oliver cannot resist the boobs! He can’t resist the boobs! Ah, sorry, getting ahead of myself.
So what I’m saying is, if we could just spend our time with Oliver and Vivian and let them argue-flirt their way into bed, this book would be perfect. I’m sure the others are very nice and interesting and blah blah blah, but I don’t want to read about them. If I wanted to read about them, I’d read their books, and maybe I will, but not because they wouldn’t shut up and go away in this one. Look, we all know this is a blatant marketing ploy and we’re supposed to get interested in the other characters’ lives and buy more books in the series and I find it really annoying. I mean, seriously – there’s constant reference to things that happened before. Even with Oliver and Vivian, apparently in some previous book they did more flirt-fighting. And now I’m supposed to go read that book to get their full story? Fuck off. For real. That’s obnoxious. I’m choosing to assume that Candace Camp only wrote her books this way because her publisher forced her to and she also thinks it’s total garbage because I want to continue to believe that she is rad. Candace Camp is on my side, you guys! Leave Candace Camp alone!
Uh…anyway. I guess I have a lot of feelings?
So! Oliver is rich and hot and single! Vivian is also rich and hot and single! They are sort of friends and their paths cross constantly because of Oliver’s cousins who I refuse to talk about, but anyway they know each other and they like each other. And also they like-like each other. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. But Vivian is all, shit I don’t need a man to be happy, and Oliver is all, if I’m going to get married I’m going to marry a lady who acts like a lady and not some lady with opinions. So obviously they have no future together (hahaha). But they have this weird habit of kissing sometimes? And at first it’s all Oliver – he’s overcome, he kisses her, he furiously apologizes for his breach in manners. Vivian is into it, though. She’s feeling like this kissing thing is kind of nice. And maybe they could do other nice things? Maybe they could take marriage off the table and just be lovers? Oliver just about pops a blood vessel at the suggestion, but at the same time he continues to be totally hot for her. Oh, conundrum!
Meanwhile – and this is an important side story, so I’ll allow it – there’s a rash of jewel thefts among the upper crust. Ladies being mugged outside of fancy parties, can you even IMAGINE?! Talk about a breach in manners! Vivian is a nice person so she becomes Quite Concerned and wants to help her friends out, but of course Oliver is against her investigating because it just isn’t what nice ladies DO. Then her dad’s ex-lover contacts her about getting a jewel back that she gambled away, which leads Vivian (and Oliver, who can’t let her do this by herself of course) to the country home of this gamblin’ man, only he doesn’t have it and he doesn’t know what happened to it. Curious! So then Oliver and the guy get drunk and at bedtime, Vivian is like, Oliver I need you to man up and jump my g.d. bones already, so he does. And he’s totally torn up about it because she’s a virgin and, omg, what has he done, blah blah blah, and Vivian is like a) so what? And b) when can we do it again? They continue to follow leads on this jewel, trying to figure out what happened to it and whether it was stolen and whether that’s related to the other stolen jewels, but more importantly there’s the stolen jewel of Vivian’s ladyflower to worry about and even more importantly than that is HOW INCREDIBLY HOT for each other they both are and then finally they get down to gettin’ down and it’s awesome and maybe perhaps the icy veneer of propriety that Oliver hides behind is beginning to melt and puddle at his feet in an adorable and not awkward “get off the rug you cretin” kind of way…? I want to see Oliver really let his hair down and do something kinky, but alas I think he is not that kind of dude.
There is a pretty sexy moment when Vivian brings Oliver with her to look at a potential house and he’s all, this house doesn’t suit you, this house is too drab, you need something better. And she’s like, well, maybe, but to be sure we should probably have sex in it first. And at first he’s SCANDALIZED but, you know, he comes around and takes his pants off. It’s a good scene. You know? Yeah. Anyway, then a bunch of other stuff happens with the side characters, and Vivian and Oliver start being communicative about how hot they are for each other, which is a nice tension – “I want to fuck your brains out, but also I don’t want anyone to see us together, and also I don’t want to get married,” except you know in a few chapters they’re going to get on the marriage train. Just ignore that part and enjoy the interaction. Oliver gets some good lines here, I believe I may have chuckled out loud. Then later the missing jewel shows up under very strange circumstances so they decide to check out this terrible tavern where all the criminals hang out but first Vivian has to disguise herself and Oliver is hilarious in this scene: “You look like a hot lady in a big shirt. Now you look like a hot lady with a hat on. Now you look like a hot lady with dirt on your face.” Until finally Vivian is just like OH WHATEVER OLIVER, it will be dark, let’s just go! So they go, and they find some criminals, but they don’t really find out anything concrete, and some punches are thrown and they cross paths with some side characters and wonder if the two plots are related or what and also Vivian may be falling in love with Oliver. Oh, Vivian. Haven’t you seen No Strings Attached or Love & Other Drugs or Friends With Benefits? Well, I have. This is what happens! This is what always happens!
BUT THEN…! Danger on the horizon! A home invasion! A threatening criminal, making demands! What does it mean? WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Duh, it means Vivian accidentally solved the mystery by getting kidnapped and Oliver’s inner beast woke up and took to the mean streets of London to kick some CRIMINAL ASS, that’s what it means! And it also means that dear, sweet Vivian got knocked around a little, poor thing. But also it means that Oliver busted some heads! You bet he did! And also it means that Oliver cradled Vivian close, so close, and said things like, “my love” and…well. You know how it goes from here.
So, complaints aside (and how angry am I about the side character who was kind of awesome and who I thought was being set up for her own romance novel except they got engaged at the end, completely negating the need for the awesome character to get her own novel? WHY CANDACE CAMP WHY WHY WHY?), this novel was pretty great. It got off to something of a rough start, but as soon as you get over the halfway hump (and I do mean HUMP – heh!), everything is awesome. And maybe you don’t mind all those things that pissed me off at the beginning, maybe you like side characters and next-book tie-ins and an endless receiving line of one-note characters. Maybe you are that person. Which is fine, I mean, whatever. You do your thing, I’ll judge you for it, and thus the world goes ‘round.