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I was absolutely thrilled when The Lady Most Willing’s ARC showed up on edelweiss, because I have a massive soft spot for it’s predecessor, The Lady Most Likely. Likely was the first real “romance novel” I read, and that coupled with its unique anthology style stuck with me, so I was highly anticipating a return to the three authors.
Not a traditional sequel, Willing features an all new cast of characters in an entirely different country. What ties it back to the original is the structure. Again, each author will write a third of the novel, detailing a romantic connection between two characters as a group of Scottish and English gentry are stuck together during a snowstorm. Quinn starts us off with Catriona and John, the Duke of Bretton; James takes Fiona and Byron, the Earl of Oakley; and Brockway winds us up with Lady Cecily and Robin, Comte de Rocheforte. The fact that they were brought together by a kidnapping by Byron and Robin’s uncle, well that’s what brings a freshness to Willing.
Taran Ferguson has a dilemma. The Scottish Laird is a widower with no heir and his sisters had the nerve to marry an Englishman and a Frenchman, each giving him a half-Scot nephew. Taran does not feel these nephews are up to snuff, as neither of them are showing the proper Scottish attitude to inherit Finovair Castle, particularly in the matrimony department. Having drunk a bit too much, Taran hatches an ingenious scheme. He’ll raid a ball at a nearby castle and kidnap several eligible young ladies, forcing his nephews to choose one.
Unfortunately, as most schemes hatched at the bottom of a scotch bottle, Taran doesn’t quite end up with what he bargained for. He does kidnap three heiresses, (although one of them is ruined and not marriage material,) but he also ends up with Miss Catriona Burns, lovely but poor and untitled, and the Duke of Bretton. One was scooped up in all the excitement, the other was sleeping in his carriage. I’ll leave you to imagine which is which. The octet is quickly trapped in the castle by a massive snowstorm, forcing everyone together into a great big orgasmic lovefest.
As with Likely, Quinn is hamstrung by going first and again her couple falls in love and agrees to wed in about the span of an afternoon. I really must pick up some of her longer books to see if she’s able to build tension when given more than 24 hours. This time there is external conflict carried through the entire novel, which greatly elevates everyone’s plotting, but the major conflict remains societal expectations and class. This section is no exception, dealing mostly with the heroine's feelings of unworth when compared to her intended. I thought her hero did the best at reassuring the H and I felt their connection most strongly.
James continues to be my least favorite of the trio with a can’t miss plot involving feuding sisters, Jane Austen, and a man who fell to his death trying to commit rape. And what does the plot resort to? Jealous alpha males compromising women and magical virginity detecting penises. I will say Fiona was my favorite of the three heroines and I really liked her chapter by herself in the barn. Shame about her hero. I enjoyed the novella more than James’ previous.
Brockway closes with a flatly ridiculous confection that is nonetheless humorous and charming, Her characters can lack depth, but they’re endearing and work well together. I don’t feel like we learn enough about Cecily to root for her specifically, as her characterization is the only one that feels like it was written by a different author. Her hero blends seamlessly with the rest of the book, making me think it’s not a mark against Brockway so much as an oversight when working with multiple personalities.
The end is typical full-blown fantasy, with a massive, multi-person wedding ending just as the pass opens and everyone’s father comes streaming in, out for blood. Of course, one look at how happy their daughters are, all is forgiven and no one’s reputation suffers. 9 months later, there are a gaggle of babies for everyone to coo over and silly things, like the fact that someone’s inheritance just got totally knackered, are forgotten. The end.
An easy, enjoyable read, the book mostly focuses on romantic love and less on the erotic. There is one steamy love scene, personally marred for me by the aforementioned virginity detecting peen, and a few fade to black moments. For the most part, everyone is satisfied with kisses and vows of undying love. There is no resolution to the conflict: once the person is beaten, they magically turn nice and get a happy ending too. The Lady Most Willing is sugar and spice and everything nice, a bubbly Christmas Regency without the overt holly and ivy. Bright and fun, but probably not destined to stick with me forever.