This is a really intriguing book, above and beyond the charming Regency romance it tells. I found myself thinking about it long after I'd finished, because there's some really deep stuff in here, far beyond the usual fluff Harlequin romances deliver. Louise Allen really knows her subject, and, Austenesque, she delves far beneath the surface emotions and adds some beautifully subtle depth to the work by examining the social mores of the period. I was genuinely fascinated and I'll be looking out for more of her work.
Lady Sara lost her first husband in an utterly senseless duel over her honour. Understandably, she's a little invested on the subject; so when she meets Lucien and his younger sister Marguerite, despite being very attracted to Lucien she's wary of getting involved because Lucien is a typical product of the upper class. His natural reaction to the slightest impugning of a lady's honour is to call out the offending party.
This is where the book got really interesting, for me, as Lucien was forced to examine his own social values and work out how to choose between two paths that both seemed utterly unacceptable to him; whether to destroy his sister's happiness by killing the man she seemed to genuinely care about, or whether to allow her to marry far beneath her station and give up everything she was entitled to by birth. Sara's pointed remarks and the example of her own situation merely shone a light on his own hypocrisy at times and it was fascinating to see Lucien undone by the truth.
(He made the right choice in the end, of course.)
The only disappointment for me was late in the book, when despite everything he had learned, Lucien's first reaction to a perceived slight to Sara's honour was to issue a challenge. I have to confess that I shut my eyes and said "Aaah, you UTTER IDIOT" out loud. Of course, because this IS a Harlequin, everything turned out perfectly fine in the end, but I was left wondering if Lucien had really changed in essentials. Still, with many years to work on him, hopefully Sara could train that reflex out of him before their own daughters came of age!
I really enjoyed this story. Highly recommended. 5 stars.
Surrender To The Marquess will be released on February 21.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.