I’m just going to lead with my HATRED of this book. A lot of books, even if I know they don’t hold up under analysis, I can just enjoy. But this book is so riddled with plot holes, dropped threads, and themelessness that just thinking about it makes me mad.
The reason I’m so angry about this book is that I loved the first Worthington book, Three Weeks to Wed. I loved Grace, and her romance with Matt was compelling. Quinn does a great job setting up a couple, and presenting reasonable obstacles. Matt wants to marry Grace, but she has to prioritize being her siblings’ guardian. Merton desires Dotty, but he needs to get over himself and not be an ass anymore. Patience loves Wolverton, but can’t marry again and be away from her daughters. Rothwell and Louisa have a connection, but his prospects appear bleak. These are all compelling problems, and they have to be resolved so the couple can be together. In the end, they put their heads together and find ways to get through issues. That’s what makes The Worthingtons work.
This book does not. It is such a mess, I hardly know where to start.
Lady Augusta Vivers is facing her debut with no desire to settle down- she wants to pursue an education instead. The only avenue through which she can pursue university attendance would be in Padua, Italy, far from her home and hearth. While Augusta’s large family has thus far supported her eclectic studies, they are almost uniformly disapproving of her desire to defer marriage. This is the first thing that pissed me off- the very unconventional Worthingtons are annoyed that one of their teenagers doesn’t want to marry someone her first season???
Patience in particular was a thorn in my side this entire book. The whole family has marriage on the mind for Augusta, and at one point Matt says that they just want her to be happy, and that means marriage and babies. VOM. I know historical romance is often a babies-ever-after subgenre, but come on! I feel like there are enough Worthingtons, they need not continue to breed incessantly. Augusta clearly states her ambitions and what would make her happy to her family, and they do not care in the least. They think that love is the most important thing, and Augusta cannot know her own mind. Patience is so adverse to her daughter attending university that she is angry whenever Augusta turns down a proposal- despite the fact that Patience herself made a bad marriage at a young age. It’s just exhausting, because the book keeps telling us how smart and talented Augusta is, but the characters just decide that she doesn’t know what’s good for her.
The male lead, Phineas, is pretty okay. He too bucks convention, being unstylishly bookish and interested in other cultures. His family tells him that he must wed, because his sister-in-law has produced four girls, and thus far, no heir. This is another huge plot hole- the reason they want Phineas to marry with haste is that they don’t have an heir. But Phineas and his brother are both healthy, and there is no reason for undue worry. I would kind of get it if his brother was dying, or infertile, but a) four kids in seven years is a lot, get off of her, and b) there is literally no rush. I would kind of get it if they expressed concern about Phineas’ travels being dangerous, but that’s never an issue. It’s just a contrivance.
The two meet and have chemistry, but Augusta’s yearning for higher education and Phineas’ orders to marry quickly don’t mesh. Then, the “plot” as it were, commences in earnest. Phineas essentially stalks Augusta, with the permission of her family, and they traipse across Europe together, each in love with the other but neither willing to talk about it or deal with it productively. This whole section of the book is a huge drag with almost nothing of interest. They meet some random Europeans, interact with characters we don’t care about, and pine for each other. They enjoy traveling together, which would certainly be important if they decide to wed and share their lives, but could have been conveyed better.
Another fun (read: insufferable) contrivance is that every man Augusta meets falls in love with her. The reason given for this is that she is a good listener? But Phineas clarifies for the reader that she isn’t usually listening when men monologue at her, she’s just kind of vacantly polite. And isn’t that what every debutant is trained to be??? Inoffensive, without distinctive personality or off-putting human emotions. Aside from being beautiful and wealthy, obviously, Augusta is just a really smart lady who is forced to conform to society. Her mind is the thing that makes her truly extraordinary, and she’s not allowed to share that with her suitors anyway. This wouldn’t have bothered me if it was something that happened to all of the Worthington heroines in Augusta’s position- but Louisa and Charlotte did not receive dozens of proposals, and they were both rich and gorgeous too. Augusta’s irresistible apathy causes men to trip over themselves constantly, and it’s such a bore.
The main sin of the book is one that many reviewers have identified, which is obviously that nothing would prevent a rich, well-born woman from getting an education after being married. The mutual pining would be interesting if there were any actual obstacles before the couple, but there aren’t. I was completely disappointed by this book, and I’m not sure I could bring myself to pick up another if this is the direction they’re going in.