“What we really need is a virgin.”
The story begins with Nicholas Pryce, Viscount Somerton, the leader of the Dashers – a group of rakes and dashing rogues bent upon outwitting their rival group the Blades by answering a challenge to find “something so singular and extraordinary as to astound and amaze us”- suggesting that the Dashers abscond a lady. But not just any lady, a lady so singular and extraordinary that it will most definitely astound and amaze each member of the Blades: a virgin.
A popular opening hook among romance authors is to begin a story with dialogue, the idea being that it will bring the reader immediately into the action of the plot and “hook” them. This hook often fails because many writers use it to show the heroine’s pain or anxiety before we even know or care about her.
But while I had been a little wary of such beginnings in the past, Lane uses each bit of dialogue and description to her full advantage and the first sentence is no different. What a great start to an even better novel. Not only does Lane begin the book from the point of view of the male protagonist, but she sets up his entire character with that line. He’s amusing and more than a little outrageous…. But where does one find an undisputable virgin in Regency society?
Apparently not among the Viscount’s regular acquaintances (or their sisters, apparently), so Nick suggests abducting the only certain virgin in town: Miss Wilhelmina Culpepper, the eldest daughter of the pious Reverend Culpepper. Willie, who turns out to be a not so pious daughter, and Nick, who turns out to be a not so rakish viscount, have to muddle their way through securing Nick a bride that will meet his criteria: she must be suitably wealthy and be able to hold Nick’s interest. Although Willie takes up the job of finding Nick a bride, admirably, it’s against her own desires.
Lane does an excellent job of switching points of view between the two leads, making both characters endearing and interesting. Too many times I’ve read books where the hero was to die for but the heroine lacked a little something, or vice versa. Not this time. Instead, both characters were instantly likeable, although not perfect in the least – each having his/her own foibles respectively – but that just made them all the more interesting.
The main conflict in the novel, finding a wealthy wife for the Viscount, is threaded through the entire text seamlessly, and produces a wonderful level of sexual tension that, amazingly, doesn’t involve very much sex. The sex scenes that were evident were not exceptionally graphic, but well written and moved the story along nicely. Moreover, a stolen kiss here and there was enough to keep me flipping through the pages eagerly, wondering and hoping about how they would finally be able to transcend all this foolishness about marrying for money and finally, eventually, marry for love. Lane didn’t put in “love scenes” just to add pages, they truly added to the romance, which I appreciated.
It was also nice to see two characters who aren’t fighting their feelings through entire novel. Lane’s characters feel no such need to prevaricate about their feelings for one another, but are conflicted because of outside elements. It’s also great to see a romantic male protagonist who isn’t typical Alpha or Beta-male. Sure, he’s got romantic inclinations, but he’s still all male! Nick’s character made me giggle, blush, and whimper with longing – all in turn. I couldn’t ask for anymore more in a character.
If you enjoy Julia Quinn, I think you would enjoy Connie Lane’s novel The Viscount’s Bawdy Bargain and I recommend it completely. As for myself, I plan on returning to the bookstore and picking up her other novels as well.