Captain Xavier Grey’s body is back amongst the beau monde, but his mind cannot break free from the horrors of war. His friends try to help him find peace. He knows he doesn’t deserve it. Just like he doesn’t deserve the attentions of the sultry bluestocking intent on seducing him into bed…
Spinster Jane Downing wants off the shelf and into the arms of a hot-blooded man. Specifically, the dark and dangerous Captain Grey. She may not be destined to be his wife, but nothing will stop her from being his mistress. She could quote classical Greek by the age of four. How hard can it be to learn the language of love?
From Netgalley in exchange for a review
We find Jane on the way to the opera with Grace and her new husband Oliver, who we met in The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower. Jane is dreading the upcoming social event, as she knows she will be introduced to the same people as before, only for them to have forgotten her from the last time, and knowing they will forget her almost before they’ve parted company – a trait she calls “Janenesia”.
Sitting in one of the boxes, the small company are joined by Captain Grey, who is still suffering the after effects of the war with Bonaparte, and his guilt of what he did during that time. Jane has always been attracted to Xavier, and believes he is like all the others – forgetting her as soon as he can. Where Jane feels she is instantly forgettable, Xavier feels he is always being watched and lauded as a war hero, something he believes he isnt.
The following morning and Xavier is on his way to his cottage in Chelmsford to wait out the rest of the Season, as he is no fit company. Jane’s brother Isaac has to go away on business for a few weeks, and so he leaves the house and his dreaded cat Egui in the care of Jane.
Jane, knowing at 24 she is destined to stay on the shelf and never knowing what sex is really like, decides to follow Xavier to Chelmsford, unfortunately with Egui in tow (as all the servants refuse to look after it). Most of the remaining story has Jane and Xavier in his cottage alone, trapped by impassable snow drifts. Xavier is shocked at Jane’s suggestion and does all he can to resist. The few days together makes them realise they dont really know each other, having made assumptions and built up ideals about the other, which are slowly broken down.
The book finishes with a silly but satisfying ending in the theatre two weeks after the show at the beginning of the book.
The lethal Egui proves to be a suitable distraction at the right times, and brings on a slight farcical tone to the story (and allows for Jane to show off her unique embroidery skills). I think this is the strongest book in the series to date, possibly because I am now hitting my stride with them or simply because Xavier and Jane are having deeper, more meaningful conversations with no real outside distractions. However, it’s still a light, occasionally flirtatious romance set in a period governed by rules.
A little more information on what a bluestocking is and how it came to be a derogatory description. The National Portrait Gallery also has some additional information and images. BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time” programme dedicated one of their shows to the Bluestocking Society – this may not play in all regions, apologies.