Thursday, March 04, 2010

"Like No Other Lover," by Julie Anne Long

The Chick: Cynthia Brightly. Fleeing a destroyed reputation, Cynthia's last hope is pinned on her chances of snaring a rich husband at her friend Violet's houseparty - before word of her disgrace gets out.
The Rub: Too bad the wealthy, brilliant party host, famed explorer Miles Redmond, is out of the running - he sees right through her pretty facade.
Dream Casting: Keira Knightley.

The Dude: Miles Redmond. Two years ago, he overheard the popular Cynthia snubbing him behind his back, and he takes a particular satisfaction now when she arrives at his party trailing rumours that she's fallen from grace.
The Rub: However, as much as he tries to fight it, he's still got a crush on her - too bad he needs to marry another woman if he wants funding for his explorations.Dream Casting: Ioan Gruffudd.
The Plot:

Cynthia: I need a husband!

Miles: *ears perk up*

Random Guest: How about Miles Redmond?

Cynthia: As if!

Miles: *sniffle*

Two Years Later

Random Guest: Miles Redmond is sexy and rich!

Cynthia: *ears perk up* Hey, Miles, wanna dance?

Miles: As if!

Cynthia: *sniffle*

Miles: Oh, fine, I'll help you find a husband.

Bachelor #1: I'm old and boring, but I'm kind and love dogs!

Bachelor #2: I'm sexy and young - but kind of silly!

Bachelor #3: I'm older, bald, and pious - but I've got a nice DILF thing going on!

Cynthia: Hmmmm, decisions, decisions.

Miles: *sniffle*

Cynthia: Who am I kidding? I'll take Bachelor #4!


Romance Convention Checklist

1 Science Nerd Hero

1 Silly Sister

4 Romantically Lacklustre But Not Totally Bad Rivals

1 Lusty Widow

1 Severed Penis

1 Kitten

1 Fake Transvestite Rumour

1 Band of Gypsies (including the Gypsy Slut from The Runaway Duke)

The Word: Julie Anne Long continues her intriguing Pennyroyal Green series about two feuding families who inhabit the same town. The wild Eversea and haughty Redmond families have been joined in a feud for what seems like forever - with tempers especially high ever since Lyon, the Redmond heir, vanished after Olivia Eversea rejected him.

While the first book, The Perils of Pleasure, depicted Colin Eversea's escape from the noose, this second book deals with Lyon's younger brother Miles Redmond. A methodical scientist and intrepid explorer, he believes he's equal to any situation - that is, until he lays eyes on the beautiful Cynthia Brightly, the social diamond of London. However, before he can introduce himself he overhears Cynthia dismissing him as a marriage prospect because he's only a dour second son. Miles' poor nerdy feelings are hurt.

Two years later, however, Miles is the de facto Redmond heir now that Lyon's MIA, and he has the chance to get a little revenge when Cynthia arrives at his parents' house party as his sister's guest. Miles hears whispers about a scandal involving Cynthia's former fiance, and he assumes (correctly) that she's here to snag a wealthy husband before her disgrace becomes public. When she turns her wiles on him, he sees right through her charade and gives her a royal set-down. However, as much as he tries to deny it, he still holds a tendre for her and offers to give her inside info on the unmarried male guests - in return for a kiss.

Cynthia doesn't need anyone to remind her of the precariousness of her situation, especially not the privileged Miles Redmond. She managed to rise to the pinnacle of popularity despite having neither fortune or family, and she's honest enough to admit that she let that unexpected power go to her head, which resulted in disaster when she overplayed her hand. While she is now determined "to be good," she also needs to survive and she's not above using her manipulative wiles to work one last miracle for herself. Provided, that is, she can work faster than her scandal spreads.

Miles and Cynthia come together in a moment of painful honesty that binds them over the rest of the narrative. They may spin lies and glamours and all sorts of half truths with other people, but from that first kiss, neither Miles nor Cynthia can deceive each other. Cynthia works her magic on three prospective bachelor guests, feigning interest in their hobbies and compatibility with their tastes. Miles, however, can see how little she reveals of her true self in her interactions with these men.

Meanwhile, Miles lies mainly to himself. He pursues Cynthia under the belief that, like any scientific mystery, once he understands how she ticks, she won't fascinate him anymore. All the while, he courts a bland woman his father has picked out for him, a woman who could secure him funding for his second expedition to South America. Like Cynthia, he tells himself he can be happy marrying without love.

They spend the rest of the novel darting and dodging around each other, like two criminals who have to break into a house, knowing that someone is watching them do it the entire time. Just knowing that Miles can see right through her game knocks Cynthia off-kilter, and makes her re-examine the way she manipulates other people. While she tells herself that her gratitude will make her a good and loyal wife to whomever asks for her hand, her burgeoning feelings for Miles eventually convince her that she is doing neither herself nor her potential suitors any favours by pretending to be someone she isn't. Similarly, Miles cannot continue to condescend towards Cynthia's mercenary marriage methods without shredding the self-righteous illusions surrounding his own courtship of a woman to secure funding.

Like No Other Lover's pacing is slow and delicate and deeply character-driven, which is a bit of a shift from the mystery aspect of The Perils of Pleasure. There are no real antagonists in this novel. No villains. No big giant secrets. Just two people who, once deprived of the ability to lie to one person, find themselves incapable of maintaining the facades they've built to protect, as well as separate, themselves from other people.

I loved nearly every aspect of this novel. The language comes first and foremost - Julie Anne Long's writing is magnificent, coming up with surprising, thoughtful, and lush descriptions, turning even the smallest and seemingly insignificant of gestures into a soliloquy. Then, her characterizations. Miles is an adorable nerd - very attractive and in control of himself, but still a nerd who fights the fact that he's been inexplicably in love with Cynthia for years. Cynthia, much like Madeleine from Perils, is a mesmerizing, self-sufficient heroine who is both capable of and used to fixing her own problems.

As well, Long also depicts the undercurrent of the Eversea/Redmond feud that runs through both the Pennyroyal Green books: including the secret history Miles' father Isaiah shares with Colin's mother Isolde, Olivia Eversea's rejection of Lyon Redmond and how his family has painfully adapted to his subsequent disappearance. While it never intrudes on the narrative, it makes one positively rabid for future books in the series. If there were any real flaws in Like No Other Lover, it might be that the middle does sag a bit in pace, but that only makes the lovely trip last that much longer.


  1. Hi AnimeJune - does this book work as a stand-alone or should I read the first one first?

  2. This book is more or less standalone. The Everseas feature very, very little in this book. But reading both gives you an understanding of the bigger picture unfolding.

  3. karenmc12:57 PM

    It is a beautiful book. Riotously funny at times, too: drinking games and rude dogs.

  4. Anonymous2:05 PM

    What a lovely review! It made me so curious about this book. Are there more books in the series after this one?