Based on the author firepower behind “The Lady Most Likely”, I’m sure reader expectations are high. I mean, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway working together in an anthology-ish book? It’s gotta be awesome, right? Actually…yes! 😀
The book is described as a novel in three parts so there aren’t actual breaks between the stories but they aren’t all told at the same time either. I like the structure – it flows quite nicely, I think. Maybe because the authors’ voices are similar enough that nothing jars when reading. I didn’t check before reading to see who wrote what so as I read, I tried to guess. Heaven knows, I have read plenty of books by all three ladies. Pardon me while I brag but I guessed right. Yay! Ms. Quinn’s portion was the easiest to spot but, if you’re familiar with the writings of Ms. James and Ms. Brockway it isn’t too difficult to figure out. Of course, I’m going to tell you so you won’t have to tax your brain, faithful reader.
The set-up is that the horse-mad Earl of Briarly has decided it is time for him to marry and produce an heir. Since he isn’t out and about in Society much – he prefers to be in the country with his horses – his sister decides to throw a house party and invite eligible young ladies she thinks her brother might like (I do enjoy a house party story, I must say). To balance out the numbers, she also invites some other eligible bachelors.
One of the young ladies invited is Miss Gwendolyn Passmore. She has been hailed as the diamond of the season. She has a reputation for being calm and aloof but no one realizes she is actually very shy. The other young ladies are not glad to see that Gwendolyn has been invited to the house party. One, Miss Octavia Darlington, even asks her brother, Alec (Earl of Charters) to distract Gwendolyn so the other young ladies will have a chance to shine. He reluctantly agrees, even though he doesn’t like his sister’s attitude.
Since Gwendolyn and Alec’s story is Julia Quinn’s contribution, you know there is quick, snappy dialogue and a great deal of humor. The only problem I had with the story was the brattiness of the sister. Even though she sees the error of her ways (sort of), I just wanted to pinch her. Really hard. Ignoring that, Alec is very sweet and Gwendolyn isn’t shy with him – and isn’t that every shy person’s dream? To find that one person – preferably rich and attractive – that you aren’t shy around?
Next up we have Ms. Brockway’s portion. Our heroine is the take-charge, outspoken Miss Katherine Peyton. Since she prefers life in the country, she has decided that she and Lord Briarly might suit. What she doesn’t know is that her childhood crush has also been invited to the house party. Captain Neill Oakes, recently returned from the war, unexpectedly has to assume responsibility for Katherine after her brother abandons ship. What Katherine doesn’t know is the reason Neill bought a commission all those years ago – and his honor won’t let him tell her while acting as her chaperone.
Katherine and Neill’s story is the one that feels rushed to me. It would benefit the most from being given more pages. As it is, this story is my least favorite. It’s good but I didn’t get as good a feel for the characters. Also, characters using honor as an excuse for stupid behavior annoy me.
Finally, Ms. James gives us the Earl of Briarly’s story. Attending the party is his sister’s best friend, Lady Georgina Sorrell. Georgina is a widow and has no interest in marrying again. Her marriage was okay but not something she feels a need to repeat. Hugh, Lord Briarly, has always been attracted to Georgina – he just didn’t realize (read: pull his head out of the stables) until it was too late. Now Georgina is skittish and Hugh knows how to deal with skittish females. I enjoyed their story – although, really, was the hinting that Georgina’s hubby might have been gay needed? I don’t think it added anything to the story…maybe if it had been in a full novel it would have. Maybe. That aside, Hugh and Georgina made a good couple.
So, what’s my final take? Gwendolyn and Alec’s story: B+; Katherine and Neill’s story C-; Georgina and Hugh’s story: B-.
Hugh Dunne, the Earl of Briarly, needs a wife, so his sister hands him a list of delectable damsels and promises to invite them— and a few other gentlemen—to her country house for what is sure to be the event of the season.
Hugh will have time to woo whichever lady he most desires . . . Unless someone else snatches her first.
The invitation list includes:
• The horse-mad but irresistibly handsome Earl of Briarly
• The always outspoken Miss Katherine Peyton
• The dashing war hero Captain Neill Oakes
• The impossibly beautiful (and painfully shy) Miss Gwendolyn Passmore
• The terribly eligible new Earl of Charters
• The widowed Lady Georgina Sorrell (who has no plans to marry, ever)
And your hostess, Lady Carolyn Finchley, an irrepressible matchmaker who plans to find the lady most likely . . . to capture her brother’s untamed heart.