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 last 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:
- The Perils of Pleasure
- Like No Other Lover
- Since the Surrender
- I Kissed An Earl
- What I Did for a Duke
How the Marquess Was Won (Pennyroyal #6)
Published in January 2012.
Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond.
But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted.
This is my favorite in the series so far. And if you’ve read the reviews of the other books, you will know that is saying a lot.
This is the first book in the series where neither protagonist is a Redmond or Eversea child. And I didn’t miss them at all, I must say.
Phoebe is a teacher at the girls’ school in Pennyroyal Green. Seeing no future for herself there, she plans on doing missionary work in Africa. She is saving up for her trip, indulging only in what Long calls “her secret vice”: broadsheets that spread gossip about the elite in London. The star of those broadsheets? Julian Spenser.
They meet in a shop in Pennyroyal. She is there staring at the hat she loves but can’t afford, he is there to buy a gift for the woman he is wooing, Lisbeth Redmond. Phoebe overhears a viscount bet Julian ten pounds that he can’t get a kiss from the schoolteacher. So, when Julian shows up soon after at her school to tour it and see if it is good enough for the daughter of a friend, Phoebe is both infatuated and annoyed.
The back-and-forth that Long has written for these characters, right from the get-go, is so…well…perfect. I’m swooning a bit just thinking about it. This excerpt begins with Phoebe telling Julian about her plans:
“I should like to go to Africa.”
“Africa!” She may as well have said the moon. What on earth did one say to this? Missionaries did go on missions to Africa. He imagined they needed teachers. “To . . . work?”
He delivered the word gingerly, after a pause.
She burst into laughter. It was the best thing he’d heard in a very long time, that laugh, better than any opera or musicale, better than birdsong or the sound of hooves clattering around a racetrack or the sighs of a mistress or any of his other favorite sounds. Her eyes vanished completely and her head tipped back and he could even see molars. He basked, astonished and pleased.
“Oh, my goodness, Lord Dryden. You should have seen your face when you said the word work. It’s not counted among the deadly sins, you know. But I thought, yes, that’s what I would do there.”
“With . . . missionaries?” He frantically riffled his brain for anything at all he knew about Africa and why people would go there. “Perhaps to teach?”
“Because . . . you are so saintly?”
Imagine that. Now he was flirting a little. The smile she gave him here was the very opposite of saintly. Slow, and crooked and pure imp.
I am not including a whole lot of dialogue only because I am displaying an incredible act of will power here. This whole exchange, which stretches across chapters, is so pleasing and fun and makes it clear from the start how easily and hard these two will fall for each other.
Their next discussion takes place in the Redmond home. Both are there for a house party, Phoebe acting as Lisbeth’s paid companion. He did not know she would be there and was happily surprised to see her. They discuss why she is there:
“So. Am I correct in assuming that you’re a . . . shall we say, paid companion of sorts . . . for the next few days?”
She smiled faintly. “You’ve managed to make that sound so . . . unsavory.”
“Because I knew it would make you smile, saintly creature that you are.”
She tried not to laugh. She really ought not. She ought to fetch a damned reticule. “You’ve the right of it. Lisbeth’s mother was unable to attend the festivities, and she thought it best Lisbeth have a companion near her age present. Lisbeth invited me. I once tutored her when she was younger, and we became friends after a fashion. And now I suspect my job is to protect her from the likes of you.”
He liked that. His eyes brightened. “Ah. Are you a decoy? Like a wooden duck set free on a pond during hunting season?”
“Are you suggesting that you’re drawn to me, Lord Dryden?”
He smiled slowly.
She smiled slowly.
The two of them together . . . well, really.
He smiles. She smiles. I smile. WE ALL SMILE.
I think I love this book because they just love being around each other so much. That is never in doubt. Instead, this is a story about how a marquess, who is desperate to secure land through marriage to another member of the elite, lets go of that dream in order to follow his heart. It about watching them learn what the other one loves. It is about courtship, even when they know they shouldn’t be courting (and the courting they do is in secret with gifts passed when others are looking, sweet notes that aim for the heart, and stolen embraces).
Just over halfway through the book, Julian messes things up badly by asking Phoebe to not go to Africa but to stay and be his mistress. And he cannot, for his life, understand why she finds that insulting since he has made his intentions about marriage clear to her from the beginning (MEN!).
In a twist of plot, Phoebe goes to Town for part of the season and she spends a fair amount of her time exchanging long glances and mean words with Julian. She claims he does not understand her need to belong, he calls her a coward for not risking censure to be with him. They come together and break apart repeatedly. He courts Lisbeth in the meantime all the while pining for Phoebe. She loves him but knows only how to survive by running as far from him as possible.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is one my most favorite romance novels ever. I have read it numerous times and writing this review makes me think I may re-read it again.
Final thought: One of my favorite Julie Anne Long books that is not part of this series is To Love a Thief (highly recommend this one, too) and there are multiple shout outs in this book to the characters in that one. It warmed my heart to think of all these characters occupying the same fictional spaces, being friends.
I give How the Marquess Was Won 5 out of 5 stars.
Up Next: The Notorious Countess Confesses.