>Month of Love Review: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady

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THE HELLIONS OF HALSTEAD HALL Series, Book #3

When a charming rogue proposes she marry him to meet her grandmother’s ultimatum, the Sharpe clan’s strong-willed sister makes a tempting counter-offer that preserves her inheritance and ignites his imagination.

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother’s demands: become engaged to a rogue! Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel. And who better to play the part of Minerva’s would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular Gothic novels she writes? The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered in Minerva’s imagination, though she has no intention of really falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him. Little does she know, he really is a covert government operative. When they team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents’ deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles’s secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back into her heart.

Although How to Woo a Reluctant Lady is the third in bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’ Hellions of Halstead Hall series, the world is the same as that inhabited by the characters of her six-book School for Heiresses series, with characters appearing in both series. Perhaps that explains the deep sense of familiarity that permeates the story. These are people and places that the author knows well. Even secondary characters leap off the page with vivid personalities.

Of course, none of the secondary characters, no matter how detailed and interesting, come close to stealing the spotlight from the hero and heroine of How to Woo a Reluctant Lady, and rightly so. Lady Minerva Sharp and barrister Giles Masters are likable, complex, sympathetic characters, with serious problems in their lives.

That’s not to say that either of them is perfect. (But really, thank goodness for that! I’ve experienced a perfect character before, and he drove me insane.) Miranda has some pretty Darcy-esque tendencies; her good opinion, once lost, results in unflattering portrayals in her novels. Giles has been living a double life so long that he’s unable to really trust anyone, let alone someone who’s made a habit of fictionalizing him as a villain for the past several years. Pretending to be a rogue of the worst sort is admirable cover, but also prevents people from knowing the real you.

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady has two main plot strands, with their roots in earlier books and their resolution in a future one. Miranda’s grandmother has stipulated that all her five grandchildren need to marry by the end of the year, or all five will be cut off from the family wealth. Understandably, this is not a popular edict. This third entry shepherds yet another Sharpe sibling into wedded bliss, despite an adamant determination by all grandchildren to circumvent their grandmother.

So Miranda needs to marry, and Giles needs her to stop writing him into her novels. But whereas Miranda seizes on Giles as the most seemingly unsuitable candidate available, in order to horrify her grandmother into backing down, Giles is in earnest. But while attempting to get Miranda to accept his suit in earnest, they stumble onto clues about a tragedy in Miranda’s family past, the truth of which the Sharpe siblings have been slowly unraveling over the course of the series.

Despite the lack of a final conclusion to the family mystery, Giles and Miranda’s story has the feel of a satisfactory puzzle piece being fitted into a larger image. A small mystery within the mystery is solved, but that resolution only creates more questions for the siblings to explore over the course of the final two books of the series, presumably.

It is in the interactions between Giles and Miranda that How to Woo a Reluctant Lady really shines. Miranda, a gothic novelist, and Giles, a highly successful barrister, are both extremely witty and intelligent characters, and many of their verbal altercations are a treat to read. Jeffries’ trademark humor and sprightliness shine with the setting of these two characters to show it off. And the chemistry between the two main characters is palpable. They’ve been fighting their unsuspectedly mutual attraction for nearly a decade, and anger at each other brings the passion to the boiling point.

Another enjoyable thing about How to Woo a Reluctant Lady that sets it apart from many of its peers are the social standings of the main characters. Although Lady Miranda Sharpe does possess a courtesy title, she is not prominent in society due to her shocking insistence on writing gothic novels, and under her own name, to boot! Giles isn’t the typical aloof earl with a family house on Grosvenor Square, either. The scapegrace second son of an bankrupt viscount, Giles is a mere mister, and earns his living working at a profession. These represent a refreshing departure from some of the genre’s conventions.

All in all, this third installment of the Hellions of Halstead Hall series is a sparkling romp, despite some of the more somber themes touched upon in the book, giving it a little ballast. The characters are delightful, and one is sorry to see them go off to their well-deserved HEA. Fortunately for fans, there’s a good chance of seeing Miranda and Giles again in the two remaining stories of Miranda’s younger siblings.

This book was given to Elvie by the author.
You can visit Sabrina Jeffires on the web to learn about her other series, and the earlier installments of this series.
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