C2’s review of How the Marquess Was Won (Pennyroyal Green, Book 6) by Julie Anne Long
Historical Romance published by Avon 27 Dec 11
In Julie Anne Long’s newest release, we return to Pennyroyal Green. This time around, the Redmonds and Everseas play a supportive role instead of being the focus. They still manage to stay in the thick of things, though. Spoilers ahead (but not too many, I hope) – enter at your own risk!
Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, (aka Lord Ice, also aka Jules) has come to Pennyroyal Green on a family errand and to attend a house party at the Redmonds. Miss Lisbeth Redmond is of marriageable age and there has been speculation that Lord Dryden is interested. Jules is interested
in part of Lisbeth’s dowry. A bit of land that was once a portion of his mother’s dowry before his father gambled it away. Jules has spent most of his adult life cleaning up messes left by his father. Finally, the family name is respected, the family fortunes have been restored and everything is falling into place. The last piece is the bit of land the Redmonds own.
Phoebe Vale is a teacher at a girls’ school – the school she attended. Phoebe grew up in the Seven Dials section of London – a very dangerous area – but, after her parents were gone, a mysterious benefactor arranged for her to be brought to Pennyroyal Green and educated at the academy. In addition to her teaching duties at Miss Endicott’s academy, Phoebe once was a tutor to Lisbeth Redmond.
[A random aside – for the first hundred pages or so, every time I read “Miss Vale”, I heard bits of Prince’s Bat Dance. If you’re close to my age, you’ll know the bit I’m talking about; if not…you kids get off my lawn! *grumpy face*]
Phoebe knows a lot about Lord Dryden from reading gossip sheets. He attracts a lot of attention and is something of a trendsetter. When she actually sees him for the first time (at a shop in town), however, he is even more impressive than she imagined.
“He seemed taller than…anyone. And suddenly all the hats and ribbons and buttons and gloves seemed like gaudy props arranged on a stage, awaiting just his arrival all these years.”
Later, when he visits Miss Endicott’s academy – to see if it might be an acceptable place for a young cousin to attend – Phoebe is tasked with giving him a tour of the facilities. During the tour, they begin verbally sparring with each other – and enjoying it immensely.
Faithful reader, I must say the whole tour of the academy is one of the loveliest extended scenes I’ve read in ages. Watching Phoebe and Jules slowly get a feel for the other’s personality and wit and, perhaps, recognizing a kindred spirit? It’s this kind of interaction that make me love romances above all else. So sweet and emotional and fun and poignant. Eventually, their small talk turns a bit more personal and her reaction to him this time is more focused.
“He’s meant for me.
The thought emerged from nowhere, fresh as a slap and seemed as true as it was dumbfounding. She stared at him, bewildered. She’d never had a thought like that in her entire life.”
I like the sense of immediate connection – it just screams romance, don’t you think? Even if the characters don’t acknowledge it until later, it’s there. Also, the idea that no one else ever really has bothered to know Jules – everyone is happy with just seeing the image he presented (or was presented for him by gossip) – is intriguing. How often does anyone really look below the surface of the people around them?
Phoebe has been invited to the Redmonds’ to serve as chaperone/companion to Lisbeth. Since Phoebe has been planning to go to Africa with a group of missionaries, she decides a last bit of fun in a luxurious house might be just the thing. But Lisbeth is different and treats Phoebe more like a servant than a friend. And Jules is there and the connection between him and Phoebe gets stronger. But Jules makes a big mistake. BIG.
Still, the (OMG huge) misstep Jules makes by asking Phoebe to be his mistress seems true to the period and his character. Jules is focused on accomplishing his last goal and getting the land that had been part of his mother’s dowry. And a marquess marrying a school teacher?? Very unlikely, regardless of his feelings. Of course, even though she was an orphan, Phoebe has been brought up well, so it’s rude of him to issue that sort of proposition, I’m thinking. I’ll leave the historical wrangling of all things etiquette-ish to others, though.
After the house party, two of Lisbeth’s friends invite Phoebe to go with them to London for a few weeks. There will be outings and parties and all sorts of fun to be had and Phoebe is curious about London since she hasn’t been back since she was a child, so she agrees to go. What she doesn’t realize is her hostesses are in cahoots with a couple of bored “gentlemen” who are also attending the house party. They think it will be great fun to play a trick on the Ton by making Phoebe the toast of the town and then exposing her as a nobody.
The casual cruelty of the supporting characters – toying with the life of someone so totally beneath them is just a lark – also rang true and it’s lovely to see them get their just rewards for their behavior, I must say. And their awful prank does serve a purpose – it helps Jules figure out what really matters to him.
A bit more info – the prologue is a glimpse into the happenings six weeks after the beginning of chapter one. Some people hate prologues, I know, but this one hooks you. You have to find out how things got to that point! Still, if that’s not your thing, you’ve been warned. Also, I recommend going back and reading the prologue after you finish the book. Just do it, trust me.
Does the book stand alone? I say yes. Sure, the Redmonds and Everseas are there, but enough of their backstory is passed along to give a feel for things without being an info-dump. For those who have read the previous books, there are a few more interesting bits of info about Olivia and Lyon. All in all, this is an excellent entry into a series that is just getting better and better.
Finally, an honorary award for best feline performance goes to Charybdis. A very accurate depiction of a cat, I must say. 😀
The Scandal Sheets call him Lord Ice.
Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond.
She’s not afraid to play with fire…
But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted.
Read an excerpt.