The Luckiest Lady in London
by Sherry Thomas
(Berkley, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-425-26888-9
*****
Sherry Thomas returns with another gorgeous romance in The Luckiest Lady in London. Thomas consistently delivers some of the most innovative books in the genre, and this beautifully-written, utterly engrossing story of two guarded lovers will land on many a keeper shelf.

Louisa Cantwell is one of five daughters, subsisting on their widowed mother’s small annuity. Should her mother die, the sisters will be left penniless. The youngest is an epileptic; the eldest hides in her room, her face scarred by smallpox. Louisa isn’t the prettiest of the five, but she is the most determined and the most resourceful. By the time she manages a Season in London, courtesy of an old family friend, her carefully-crafted façade is perfect. Her face isn’t beautiful, but it’s interesting; her conversation is witty and flattering; her figure is enhanced enough to be alluring. All she needs is to snare a man of means and her family’s future will be secure.

Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, has crafted his own façade. Breathtakingly handsome, urbane, and possessed of a mammoth fortune, he is every mama’s dream suitor. But it’s a sham; Felix is the product of a miserable, hate-filled marriage, and his Ideal Gentleman persona hides a determination to never love, never lose control of his emotions. The “I’ll never love anyone” hero can feel quite shopworn, but the author does a stellar job of detailing the events that led to Felix’s decisions, and his pain does indeed run deep.

When Felix meets Louisa, she has two potential suitors lined up. Felix instantly unsettles her and she reacts warily, sure that he can see right through her and is secretly mocking her. Felix is bemused; Louisa appears unwillingly fascinated, as though she senses he’s a fraud. Intrigued, Felix decides to spend more time in Louisa’s company, ultimately offering to make her his mistress. Louisa admits her erotic dreams to him, inflaming Felix to the point where he can think of nothing but making Louisa his. When she turns down his offer, hinting that she’ll marry the village butcher rather than shame her family, Felix does the unthinkable: he proposes.

So, two people with many secrets to hide and a host of broken dreams between them embark upon a marriage. Louisa is sure that Felix will quickly tire of her, once he finds out she has few accomplishments and is very nearly a country bumpkin. Felix plans to offer Louisa little other than his fortune and expertise in bed, and is staggered when he finds he can’t control his passion for her. Their path to love contains a fair amount of pain as they learn just who is behind the other’s mask, but the journey is absolutely engrossing. Their mutual fascination with telescopes and the heavens acts as a lovely metaphor for two souls trapped in personal prisons of their own creation, longing to escape to the wider universe. And they have much to teach each other.

The Luckiest Lady in London is a stand-alone novel, for which I’m glad – every book I’ve picked up lately has been part of some trilogy or series, and spending pages reading about characters who are only there to be set up for their own stories gets to be tiresome. Every bit of this story is necessary and important, and the writing is poignant and lovely. This is one of the finest romances of the year, from one of the most innovative authors in print. Sherry Thomas is a treasure and I urge you to pick this one up.

--Cathy Sova


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