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Glorious. Absolutely glorious, vintage romance with a spirited and smart teenage heroine and a wonderful, slightly older (~10 years) hero). Orphan Leoni meets rich businessman Lucas, who happens to be a man she once met as a child at the orphanage gate.

This book is just sheer enjoyment. It’s so nice, but in a really nice way, with those amazing moments of sexual tension that Mary Burchell manages despite 100% chasteness.

You do have to get over several increasingly huge coincidences with this book, but by the time you get there you won’t care, as the characters are so lovely. Even though the last one is absurdly implausible and could easily have been written around.

  1. The man at the gate is her best friend’s cousin. OK, we can cope with this one.
  2. On her first day working in London, whom does Leoni bump into at the Tube station? That’s right, the hero. If you’ve been in the commuting rush hour in London, you’ll know how unlikely this is. Why is he even in the Tube station? He has a car he drives everywhere.
  3. When the hero and heroine are stranded at a remote unknown cottage in the middle of nowhere in the fog, who should be the adulterous couple turning up there, but the hero’s wife/the Other Woman, actress Sophie Rayter, and her boyfriend? Come on!
  4. The Other Woman turns out to be the heroine’s step-mother (not that either of them knew this). The Other Woman was originally married to the Leoni’s father, who was still alive when she bigamously “married” Lucas. This really pushes the reader’s allowance-making to the limit.

As a bonus coincidence which is totally irrelevant and unnecessary to the plot, unlike the four previous coincidences, Matron’s sister’s aunt-in-law is the Other Woman’s dresser.

The surnames are rather odd in this book. I listened to it as an audiobook, and was struck by how “un-English” they sounded, at least as a group, or at least how unusual they all are. Morrion, Vandeem, Dagram, Coran, Rayter, Conby, Frendall, Burnby, Saleedon. I’ve never met anyone with any of these surnames, and in fact I can’t recall ever even reading of most/all of them before.

I suppose if there’s anything to regret, it’s the reminder that women in this era had so few opportunities. Despite being such a brilliant student that she wins a scholarship and impresses her friend’s rich father, such that he sponsors her education, the only career option considered for her is as a secretary. This rather reminds me of my grandmother, who went to Oxford in the 1930s – it was an exceptional thing in that era for a girl to go to university, let alone Oxford – but became merely a secretary who ended up marrying her boss. There were female doctors and scientists in the 1930s, but really vanishingly few, and most young women were blocked from such careers by a range of factors.

So brilliant, beautiful Leoni presumably ends up becoming a corporate wife.

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