Author: Laura Kinsale
Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
There's a war going on and Merlin Lambourne, a zany and absentminded inventor has something the French want badly. Ransom Falconer, the Duke of Damerell, is sent by the British government to retrieve whatever it is before the French get to it.
Intrigued with her intelligence, beauty, utter innocence and stumped by her stubbornness, His Grace resorts to kidnapping Merlin together with an in-the-making flying machine, assorted servants and paraphernalia to his estate where he proposes to her again and again.... in vain. Scatterbrained and innocent she may be, but Merlin is no fool. She quickly comes to realize the attractive and arrogant Duke is used to ruling everybody and will ban her flying machine for life if she succumbs to temptation and marries him.
As passion soars and intrigue deepens, both Merlin and Ransom will have to face some deadly peril while simultaneously battling innner demons.
I'm not going to beat around the bush here. This is book is, simply put, one of the most enjoyable historicals I've read!
It's interesting to see a woman inventor as the female lead. Merlin - with her forgetfulness (she keeps calling Ransom "Mr.Duke", a confusion this lofty personality has never before encountered), her hedgehog (the finger-piercing scene had me in splits), her inventions (she's inventing a flying machine and a telegraph - what an indomitable woman!) and an innocence that's at odds with her intellect - at first appears to be overshadowed by the larger than life personality of the Duke. But as the story progresses, so does Merlin and she soon becomes someone more than able to stand up to Ransom. He, on the other hand, gets to show the readers his hidden side, at once boyish, scared and tender, in between bouts of extremely arrogant behavior, that is. That's one of the interesting points of this book, how almost every character has a duality or hidden side of their nature, just like in real life. The resulting romance between Merlin and Ransom feels very natural and it's a joy to read it.
Kinsale has a reputation for writing dark books, but this one is surprisingly charming, funny, sensitive and oh-so romantic! The characterizations are really good as is the atmosphere. There are a ton of side characters and they're given interesting stories of their own which add to the overall sense of mystery and chaos without overpowering the main one.
One and the worst - the cover. It does not justify the story in my opinion, giving it a dark, gothic feel that is at complete odds with the story. Two - A side story about Lady Blythe's secret romance is very interesting, but unfortunately not as in-depth as I would have liked it to be. Third - Initially I had difficulty with Merlin's utter innocence - she's never seen a child, doesn't know what a duke is etc. It's hard to believe someone could have led such a sheltered life, but Kinsale makes it believable, somewhat.
Note - Sourcebooks Casablanca is reprinting 3 titles by Laura Kinsale in October, including this one. But according to Amazon, this book is in stock already.
About the Author
Laura Kinsale, a former petroleum engineer, is the New York Times bestselling author of Flowers from the Storm, The Prince of Midnight, and Seize the Fire. She and her husband divide their time between Santa Fe and Dallas.
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