Normally, the strained contrivances of a book like this would have earned it a two heart rating from me, at best. Because Stella Cameron is Stella Cameron, however, I liked the protagonists in spite of everything and enjoyed their athletic, enthusiastic, frequent, imaginative and sometimes even romantic sex.
If you are familiar with Mayfair Square series, you will know that Number Seven is haunted by Sir Septimus Spivey. Spivey designed the house and his ghost is now trying to rid it of the riff raff in residence. His latest target is Latimer More, The Most Daring Love in England, whom the irascible ghost plans to marry off to Princess Desirée, sister to the hero of one of the earlier books.
Unfortunately for Spivey, Latimer is besotted with Jenny McBride, a Scottish milliner’s assistant. Every day Latimer contrives to meet Jenny “accidentally” in the street where she works and exchange a few pleasantries with her. I find myself wondering why The Most Daring Lover in England can’t contrive something a little more imaginative, not to mention effective, but never mind. Jenny’s opinions about the weather are so compelling that Latimer must have her for his wife.
Naturally, he foresees that his willingness to deliver her from a life of honest penury, as well as to overlook the ridicule of his friends over his humble bride, will earn him her undying gratitude and admiration. In short, Latimer is a bit of an ass.
The independent but humble Jenny is, in fact, thrilled by Latimer’s attentions, but she knows nothing can ever come of it. For one thing, she is far beneath him, an “abandoned child, brought up in an orphanage and turned out onto the street at thirteen with one spare dress and hardly any money.” For another, she owes her landlord, the evil Morley Bucket, “more in back rent than she earned in a year.”
The depraved Bucket follows poor Jenny about London “just to make sure she never forgot who could take away her freedom if she didn’t follow his orders.” This guy has a lot of spare time. He also has endless patience and incredibly deep pockets, to allow Jenny to run around loose, accumulating rent arrears, when he has a buyer already lined up and panting for the innocent Scots virgin.
One evening, desperate to know where Jenny lives, Latimer follows her to her slum abode and saves her when Bucket bursts into her room. Naturally, he has to carry Jenny off kicking and screaming because she doesn’t need anyone to rescue her.
Yes, Jenny is one of those tiresome heroines who continually insists that she can solve all her own problems, then proceeds to prove over and over that she can do no such thing. Right to the end, she’s congratulating herself because she “didna need rescuin’ by any man.” Except she needed “rescuin’” about every other page.
Did I mention that Jenny is Scottish? It’s not really that important - she could have been Latvian for all the importance it had to the plot. The only concrete effect was to subject the reader to endless Scottish dialect - which, however charming it may be to the ear, is almost invariably excruciating to the eye.
On the other hand, I forgot what twits these two were every time they climbed between the sheets, metaphorically speaking. They’re together a lot, but sheets are not always involved. Which is probably a good thing, because it would have taken Latimer much of his considerable fortune to replace all that singed linen. Finally we get a chance to see why Latimer is The Most Daring etc., and Jenny is a willing and enthusiastic pupil. If nothing else, that was fun.
I could have lived without the kinky villain sex. Maybe some of you will like the contrast - I thought it was a bit contrived. Of course, I also felt that way about the so-called “humor” of Sir Septimus Spivey, so maybe it’s just me.
If you’ve enjoyed previous Mayfair books, you’ll probably like this one, too; it’s definitely more of the same. The inhabitants have great sex, but I’m finding the actual stories a bit thin.