One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out on Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually. I will go in order of the series, one review per day for the next seven days.
Like No Other Lover (Pennyroyal #2)
Published in November 2008 by HarperCollins/Avon.
It’s the last chance for Cynthia Brightly, the ton’s most bewitching belle. Driven out of London by a secret scandal, she mustfind a grand husband at the Redmonds’ house party before word of her downfall spreads all over England. Unfortunately, someone at Pennyroyal Green is already privy to the whispers of broken engagements and dueling lovers: Miles Redmond, renowned explorer and—thanks to his brother’s disappearance—heir to the family’s enormous fortune.
Miles set his sights on Cynthia once, at a time when the ambitious beauty thought herself too good for a second son. But now he’s the heir apparent, relishing in his control. He strikes a bargain with her: he’ll keep Cynthia’s steamy secrets and help her find a husband among the guests—in exchange for a single kiss.
What could be the harm in a simple kiss? Cynthia is about to discover that it’s enough to unleash fierce passion-and that Miles Redmond is most certainly like no other lover in the world.
Unlike The Perils of Pleasure, it took me much longer to get into this book and into the relationship between the two protagonists, Miles and Cynthia. The characters are stand-offish, which is the point. Miles has goals in life. He wants to continue his adventures abroad to foreign locales and to be a famous author of natural histories (there are even hints that he may be the next president of the Royal Society). Cynthia is a poor woman who must marry before a scandal and the reality of her financial status become well known. They are each scrambling to set up the future they desire. And since Miles can only secure the funding he needs for his upcoming trip by marrying the woman his father demands, he cannot marry Cynthia. And since Cynthia must marry, she cannot waste time pining for Miles. Inevitably, they only desire each other.
To the outside world, they each present themselves as people without hearts. Miles is cold, calculated, and stiff, trapped in a role created by his position in the Remond family. At one point, Long writes, “but beneath his amusement sizzled irritation. I’ve a heart, too, he wanted to say. I’m not just gravity. I can be furious. I could do something rash. I could suffer torments.” But Cynthia, who most perceive to be flighty, fickle, and silly, reads their differing, heartless personas very keenly. She says to Miles at one point, ““I know what you think of me, Miles. I know what you-have thought of me. But I have a heart. I do have a heart. I just cannot afford to use it. Don’t you see? Why can’t you see this? Whereas you—may play at all of this as much as you like. There will always be someone for you. And that is the difference: I cannot afford to use my heart. And you—you choose not to use yours.”
And it is through his relationship with Cynthia that Miles comes to understand how he has chosen to hide behind the role of the even-keeled, emotionless scholar: “I want you to know…that you’re wrong on one count, Cynthia. I have a heart. I have only…recently discovered this. Ironic, isn’t it? Given that I’ve made rather a life out of discovery. And I wish to God I had a choice. I wish to God I could…because if I could…” Cynthia stops him and flees the conversation. As she knows, having a heart is not at all useful to either one of their futures.
One of Long’s great strengths is that she uses the sensual and sexual scenes in her novels to advance the plot and to reveal the characters. Not only are the scenes incredibly well written but they do something for the story. If you skim them, you lose important details.
When Miles and Cynthia finally have sex in the novel, each character finds in it a wholeness to themselves. Miles believes that “it might very well be the first and last time he used his body for its truest purpose.” And Cynthia, immediately afterward, while making the decision to finally leave the Redmonds’ home and Miles, assesses the impact that Miles has had on her heart and her life:
He’d broken her heart open like an egg, but inside was…the whole world. And as she looked back at him, she felt the serrated edges of her heart in her chest. But also a sort of dizzying vastness: she could face anything now. Loving and being loved had given her that kind of strength, and a sort of permanent safety she could carry with her forever. So she would not be spending her life with him. Life was not fair: that’s what made it interesting. And she had probably been much luckier, in her day, than anyone had a right to expect.
Of course, I will not tell you specifically how this ends. You will be satisfied, that I promise you.
I would be remiss to finish this review without mentioning how incredibly FUNNY this book is. One scene in particular (and if you’ve read the book you know *exactly* what I’m talking about) will have you laughing out loud wherever you are when you read it. I think the first time I read the scene, I actually cried because I laughed so hard.
Despite the slow beginning, I enjoyed Like No Other Lover immensely. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Next up: Since the Surrender (hint: this is the only book in the series I did not like).