I love Long's work, but looking at this series as a whole, there's just no predicting how much I'm going to like each book. The tone of each is very different, and while the quality of her writing is always good, I don't like everything she writes. I desperately want her to write Lyon and Olivia's story, but until then I'm just along for the ride.
I liked the premise of this one in the beginning. Julian wants to marry Lisbeth Redmond and, as part of her dowry, acquire back the last piece of ancestral land that his father fettered away. Unfortunately, he finds himself far more attracted to Lisbeth's paid companion, Phoebe. Phoebe is a schoolteacher, but she longs for more. She's made plans to move to Africa, but finds herself enjoying sudden unexpected attention from the Ton, and decides to stay awhile to enjoy the fun.
This is a case of a very uncomfortable, unappealing book being partially saved by the chemistry between the main characters. Julian is a reluctant trend setter, admired by all, and coldly precise on the surface. He finds that Phoebe is one of the rare people he can open up to. Likewise, he takes an interest in Phoebes life and personality in a way that no one else has. They are brilliant together, and the relationship developed is fairly well paced and natural.
As I said, this book was very uncomfortable. London's society is portrayed as behaving very much like the worst variety of high school students--snobby, selfish, manipulative, and totally without empathy. It was apparent to me early on that Phoebe was being used for amusement and would ultimately be humiliated, and that was just too painful. I didn't care for the plot throughout much of the second half.
This was neither my favorite nor least favorite Pennyroyal Green book. It had excellent characters but was hampered by a wholly unpalatable plot. 3.5 stars.