What a pleasure this book was. I’d been aware of it for a while now, and I’ve read and enjoyed one of Ms. Long’s books in the past – I Kissed an Earl – but my book buying is usually a direct result of review reading, and the reviews made me hesitate to pick this one up. A lot of people didn’t seem to like the heroine, or didn’t enjoy how prickly her romance with the hero remained through much of the book. Man, I wish I’d ignored those reviews earlier. Like No Other Lover was just my type of romance -- and the writing! Ah, gorgeous.
I loved Cynthia. She’s hardened by experience, and mercenary out of necessity – she’s a few pounds away from absolute penury – but these qualities only make her depth of feeling, her fundamental goodness more remarkable, more precious.
Isn’t that the juice of historicals? One of the ingredients that gives them their special sauce? We're reading and writing about an era when a woman’s future depended so greatly on her husband that the choice of him constituted the most important business decision she’d ever make? And that’s if she were lucky enough to make the choice, rather than have it made for her. So, no, Cynthia isn’t all sweetness and light. She’s not saintly. She’s exactly what she ought to be.
Not only does Like No Other Lover feature a complex, flawed heroine with a heart of gold, the hero – Miles – is an explorer and naturalist. I love brave, adventurous heroes. I love the Victorian age of exploration. And I loved Miles in particular, who sees the world around him with the detachment of a scientist, the relish of an expat, and the cynicism of a man who remembers being mocked for exactly the passions that have now made him famous.
The romance between Miles and Cynthia is beautifully done. Each has a fixed goal, and each is determined enough, driven enough, that those goals are not easily budged. Miles must marry the insipid Lady Georgina to secure funding for his next expedition to Brazil. He’s wildly attracted to Cynthia and soon recognizes her as a kindred spirit, but he can’t imagine choosing her – or any woman – over his life’s work. For her part, Cynthia must secure a wealthy husband within the next two weeks or she’ll be forced to enter service as a paid companion.
The two start out very much at odds. Miles thinks badly of Cynthia for her mercenary tendencies but he desires her intensely. He offers to help her reel in the other male guests at his house party in exchange for a kiss. Cynthia resents Miles’ contemptuous attitude, but she’s a practical girl. She has to be. So she accepts his offer.
And that’s the beginning. Honesty. Plain speaking. An amazing, unforgettable kiss. The romance is delicious. The more that Miles and Cynthia like one another, the more painful, the more bittersweet the read. They’re by turns hostile, understanding, admiring, even hurtful with one another. This is a romance that pulls in all the emotions. There are tremendously funny scenes – for all her gorgeous, gorgeous prose Julie Anne Long has a fantastic sense of humor – and very poignant ones.
This is a book that's dripping with gorgeous description, rich with sensuality and desire, but at heart Miles and Cynthia's romance is about getting to know one another. Appreciating one another. Peeling back layers of pretense, looking at the heart of another person, and admiring it.
Exactly what a romance should be. Highly recommended.