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“The Most Eligible Bride in London” by Ella Quinn

I read the first book in this series, The Most Eligible Lord in London, because I really loved the first few books from The Worthington series. However, it has become clear that the series has dragged on for too long and Quinn needs to turn over a new leaf. My first indication that the books were declining in quality was Believe in Me, which I reviewed very negatively, and the first book in The Lords of London was not much better.

Miss Henrietta Stern, younger sister of the Marchioness of Merton, Dotty, is the last of her circle to be single. All of her friends are married, and either adding to their nurseries or traveling abroad. Henrietta is starting to feel a little left behind, and as she enters her second season she is determined to find her match.

Nate, the Viscount Fotherby, has also decided to find a spouse, and when he meets Henrietta by chance, both feel a spark. There are two main problems: 1) They haven’t been introduced, and 2) Nate is a persona non grata, having attempted to stop Dotty and Merton’s wedding years earlier. Since there have been like eight books since then, I’ll remind you that Fotherby kidnapped Dotty to try to stop the wedding. He did this because he had a very dubious lead that Merton didn’t desire the marriage. Still, wow.

It does occur to me that there is precedent for a rogue redeemed in this way- Romancelandia darling Devil in Winter comes to mind. Nate is exiled to the country where he must remain until his mother deems him to be reformed. I don’t really have an issue with Nate being reformed and introduced as a love interest. Frankly, his character is one of the strongest parts of the novel, and really the only thing I enjoyed. I just found it to be ridiculous that everyone came around to him so quickly, and expected everything to just work out. Dotty doesn’t react well, but what can you expect? People can change, but that doesn’t mean they have to marry your little sister.

The biggest problem with the book is a familiar one: too much self-referential back patting. Half of the book is wasted on going to visit other characters from previous books for no discernible reason, mostly just to remind you that these people exist in this universe. The constant flashing to different characters who really don’t matter to the story is just exhausting. I think the book would have been a lot stronger if the focus had been kept on the relationship between Dotty and Henrietta, but Dotty is basically written off as a crazy, exhausted pregnant woman and no one seems to be adequately supervising Henrietta. An other weakness lies in the characterization of Nate- we know that he esteems his mother and has older sisters, but we know next to nothing about his father except his political party, and we don’t know how his older brother died. His redemption could have hit a lot harder if there had been a deeper reason for his actions, which could have been explained through some backstory. I’m also just tired of the characters conspiring to throw people together. You would think that the gentry did nothing but match-make with their spare time.

It is also telling that basically none of the female characters have anything to discuss other than children, either kids they are saving from poverty or their own families. I’m not anti-child, and I think happily ever afters are sometimes more satisfying with kids, if that’s what the characters want. But the kids Henrietta and her sister advocate for in their charity aren’t actually characters, they’re just placeholders, cardboard cut-outs to show you that these are good people. Once the children are retrieved from danger, they are promptly sent away to Richmond, never to be seen again. Do they get adopted? Are they raised there by nursemaids? How are they provided for as adults? These details aren’t important, it’s just essential that we see how much integrity these women have, to want to rescue kids from mistreatment. Who cares what happens to them after? This is just a really shallow attempt to establish characterization, and it falls apart upon any analysis.

I thought I would give Ella Quinn one more chance to win me back, but I think I’m done for good. I’ll probably reread the first Worthington book sometime, but I won’t be picking up any of her new work.

This reviewer was provided a copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

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