Rakes and Radishes by Susanna Ives
I originally wanted to read this book because of the title. I knew this book was either going to be good or good bad. While I love a good romance the ones that are good bad can be just as fun. Because it is from Carina Press, my bet was on good and I was right.
Henrietta, raised by two Mathematicians, is very smart but has unfortunately read too many romance novels and given her heart to a man lacking substance but not good looks. Kesseley, the Earl, neighbor, and childhood friend of Henrietta agrees to help her win back the wayward lover, though he himself is in love with the damsel. This is not a unique plot line, but the characters are amusing and lovable. Throw in some eccentric society Dames, a disapproving Momma, and a Beauty/Heiress and you have a few plot twists and bends that make for a very nice story. The author is crafty enough that she even turns some of the villains into likable characters. I read it in 24 hours and would have finished it faster had I not been interrupted by a family needing my attention.
While the characters were great and the story diverting, what made this novel truly a joy was the way that Ives uses the serial romance novel, with the gothic rake hero and the damsel in distress, as a background to the plot and a foil to the characters in the story. It was infuriating to see the smart Henrietta get caught up in creating a gothic romance of her own life, though the reader knows she surely most posses better sense. Kesseley reveals the darker aspect of a rake’s character by starting down a path he then has trouble not only navigating but escaping. While the characters each get their romance genre moment to act out, they are also discussing the latest in a series of gothic romances taking London Society by storm. Ives weaves together wonderfully both the lack of sense in gothic romances and the good sense her characters use to extract themselves out of their own romantic tangles.
Recommended, just make sure you have the afternoon free to sit on the couch