I've been plowing my way through the Carsington family tree. This is Alistair, the third son's, story.
Blurb (courtesy of lorettachase.com): Alistair Carsington really, really wishes he didn’t love women quite so much. To escape his worst impulses, he sets out for a place far from civilization: Derbyshire--in winter!--where he hopes to kill two birds with one stone: avoid all temptation, and repay the friend who saved his life on the fields of Waterloo. But this noble aim drops him straight into opposition with Miss Mirabel Oldridge, a woman every bit as intelligent, obstinate, and devious as he—and maddeningly irresistible.
Mirabel Oldridge already has her hands full keeping her brilliant and aggravatingly eccentric father out of trouble. The last thing she needs is a stunningly attractive, oversensitive and overbright aristocrat reminding her she has a heart--not to mention a body he claims is so unstylishly clothed that undressing her is practically a civic duty.
Could the situation be any worse? And why does something that seems so wrong feel so very wonderful?
Yet again, the story is much stronger from the hero's POV. And, I must say, he is far more likeable than the heroine. I found Mirabel a difficult character to really like. Which disheartened me. Although I have always found Chase's heros to be compelling and heartwrenching, her heroines have always been a tremendous match for them. Here, I just didn't believe that of Mirabel.
Alistair is a veteran of Waterloo, and suffers from amnesia relating to his final battle, which left him with a pronounced limp. As he finally begins to recollect what happened to him on the battlefield, he begins to suffer bouts of insomnia, and what I would call PTSD, although nothing even closely resembling that of Bit (Robert), in England's Perfect Hero. Mirabel is so caught up in getting her own way that she plays upon this and uses Alistair's suffering to her own advantage. This really bothered me, and I began to find her more and more unlikeable. I found myself wondering what on earth Alistair found so wonderful about her?
I also had a difficult time understanding why she downplayed her looks so much. The explanation given was meager at best, and I just wasn't buying it. I also was unnerved by the betrayal of Alistair's best friend, and I missed seeing any of the other Carsington siblings, at least one of whom usually makes a brief appearance in each other's books.
I found the emotional connection between the H/H a bit lacking. While I think that Chase gave it her best try, I think that Mirabel is just not an engaging enough character to create the kind of intense bond necessary for a lasting love to take hold.
I did find Alistair likeable. He grew as a character. I felt his pain. If he had one great flaw, it is that he was too milquetoast. He let everyone walk all over him. In a romance novel hero, this is not a good thing.
Obviously, this is my least favorite of all the Chase books I've read. I missed her heavenly banter, her wonderful rapport between the H/H, her truly satisfying conclusions. It breaks my heart to write such a lackluster review. I try to always find something really positive to say. So for a truly fantastic Chase read, I highly recommend Lord Perfect or Lord of Scoundrels.