Wednesday, September 30, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Love According to Lily by Julianne Maclean

 Things are pretty depressing in the world right now.  Lately, even my reading has been more serious. I needed some historical romance for the pure escapism.

Many years ago, I never read category romance, although I certainly read historical love stories. But when I did decide to sample the historical romance genre, I found the stories, for the most part, to be entertaining, quick, and light-hearted fun. One of the first books I read was Love According to Lily by Julianne Maclean. It made me a convert. I’ve often wanted to go back and re-read it now that I’ve read so much more of the genre, to see if it still struck me as unique, but it had gone out of print and I couldn’t find it.  About a month ago, I thought of it again, and discovered that it would be re-released. I was so excited I pre-ordered it for my kindle. 

Lady Lily Langdon is the twenty-one-year-old sister of a duke who has been in love with her older brother’s best friend since she was a child. The friend, Edward, Earl of Whitby, is twelve years older and is known to be a terrible rake. However, Lily remembers fondly the kind, playful way he treated her when she was young. Also, when she was not so young, she stupidly ran off with a Frenchman, and Whitby was one of her rescuers (along with her brother.) Unfortunately, Whitby has never thought of Lily as anything but his friend’s baby sister.

Lily needs to move on. A potential suitor has come to a shooting party at her brother’s estate and Lily’s mother is encouraging the match. Complicating the issue, Whitby will be there too.  Lily’s sister-in-law, who sees where Lily’s heart lies, tells her to flirt openly with Whitby to show him she’s no longer a child and that she’s interested in him.

Under normal circumstances, this likely would not have worked. But this party is different. Whitby arrives ill and grows increasingly ill as the weekend progresses. It appears he has the same thing that killed his father, Hodgkin’s disease. Not only is he likely dying, but dying without heir, leaving his sister in the clutches of a cousin who is very bad news.

Lily spends time caring for him while he’s sick and feverish. It occurs to her and to Whitby’s sister that there is time for a wedding and quick impregnation. So Lily sets about seducing Whitby.

How well does this plot stand up to a re-reading? Frankly, it’s a bit weird.

The author goes to great, great pains to show that Lily is no longer a child. A twelve-year age difference is not insurmountable, particularly back then. And there are plenty of romances that show the woman as the instigator. Her particularly aggressive nature, while he is in bed likely dying, is more the weird thing. I couldn’t help but think if the roles were reversed, it would come across as horrifying.

However, the book runs the gamut of emotion, from long unrequited love, to intense passion, to grief, fear, and painful regret. Whitby’s illness adds another dimension to the story. While I don’t think I’ll be reading this a third time, I’m glad to have had the chance to read it twice.

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