This is actually one of my favorite romances of all time. I've had this book for over a decade and I've read it multiple times, and lent it to others quite a few times as well.
Its different from other romance novels in that the writing is very well done, and the subject matter isn't all fluffy. There's a very serious undertone...
The Earl of Landon, Remington Carr, has good reason to think all women are manipulative, clinging, helpless, and a burden, and promotes his controversial ideas that women should work and be responsible for their own maintenance. He calls marriage an "inequitable burden" on men.
Widow Antonia Paxton is furious when she hears the Earl proclaiming that "Surplus women" should give up ideas of marriage. She challenges the Earl to a wager - perform two weeks of the average "woman's work" and see if he still thinks that women are useless burdens on a man, making no contributions to their own welfare.
The book is well done and charming, Antonia uses her house full of widowed "surplus" ladies to soften the Earl's defenses when youth and beauty wouldn't have moved him. She shows him what woman's work is really like, cooking, cleaning, menu planning, shopping...running a household.
The two lovers path to falling for one another is actually believable. You can totally understand WHY they like each other, warts and all. Its a huge pet peeve for me when reading romances - if one or both characters are either so annoying or so vapid that I can't understand why anyone, let alone the hero or heroine, would love them.
The truly touching thing about this book is that in the Author's Note at the end, Betina Krahn tells us that parts of the story were based on the late 1800s debate in English society of "The Woman Question"...when women of that time were raised to be "wife, homemaker, and mother" but not allowed to be trained in other means of self-support. And, when marriage rates dropped, these women were left without worth in society. Unable to do what they'd been trained to do, and unable to move forward into a working world hostile to them. Heartbreakingly, the advertisements read by the heroine, Antonia, from these women, seeking employment or "merely a place to sleep and a bit of bread" were "regular features" of the publications of the time, and were genuine ads included by the author.
I've never encountered another book that balanced feminism and romance so well, not heavy handedly, but really superbly. She makes you really THINK about what it was like and how unfair that time for women was, but still does it in a way that is highly entertaining.
This is a wonderful story. Very well written and insightful.
This is a funnier and more thoughtful romance novel than some, it also should be a favourite for Victorian enthusiasts
This is a very funny, interesting historical novel. I read alot of romance books, yet this story still sticks with me. Love this book.
super terrific fun read! Great characters! Must read!