This is one of her Regency romance novels, long out of print, borrowed from the library. I’ve read and liked several of her other works (her mysteries and some of her fantasy), including one of her other romances (also from the library), and wanted to like this one, but could not finish it. I like her writing, was interested in the characters, and was curious how everyone would get their happy endings, but did not like and could not get past most of the characters’ attitudes towards Lady Juliette (the lead). I’ve already returned it, so will have to be vague with names.
Lady Juliette is an only child of a wealthy man; her mother died when she was very young, and her father essentially raised her as his estate agent. She planned to go to London for the Season under the sponsorship of family friends, but they could not go for some reason. She ended up hiring a companion and going anyway, but was not particularly successful despite her fortune; this was probably due to a combination of her hired companion, her personality (very managing), and her clothes. Her maid was her mother’s, and she took her advice on the matter of fashion, resulting in an extremely out-of-date wardrobe in unflattering colors. This was actually my first stumbling block; she does not see much difference between what she wears and what everyone else is wearing, despite the fact that her styles are much more ornate and the colors much brighter. I could accept not caring, but not seeing is a different matter.
The story begins after the Season; Juliette is attending house-parties in an effort to avoid a summons to her great-aunt’s house. The current house has a marriageable son and a hopeful mother, though Juliette and the son are aware of his mother’s hopes but are not interested in each other. The son is very easygoing and not particularly discriminating about his friends; one of his friends (invited to the party) is someone with a deservedly bad reputation (was disowned and decided to ruin himself further). Among the other house-guests are Juliette’s friend Althea, her sister Isobel and their family; Juliette’s cousin Anthony arrives later with instructions to take Juliette to her aunt. The rake meets Juliette while she is out riding, and kisses her; they are surprised to meet again as fellow house-guests. He was not planning on staying more than a night, but decides to stay longer because of her. Complications ensue, mostly due to money and expectations of money and relationships forming occasionally because of those expectations, but mostly despite them.
I was interested in the plot; at the point where I stopped, I didn’t see how any of the projected couples could have ended up with a happy ending. Everyone’s thoughts of Juliette include mention of how ridiculous her wardrobe is or how badly she interacts with people or other negative thoughts (varying from mild to scornful); this was the reason I could not continue. I cannot read or watch things where everyone is mocking the lead behind their back. If it hadn’t been overdue, I might have kept at it longer (a chapter here and there), but I didn’t care enough to renew it. I might try it again some other time, though.