The Greatest Prize
Review by Jeff Salter
You’ve seen author Lynn Shurr here previously… as Guest Fox on a Hound Day (Nov. 12, 2020) and in an interview with our Friday Fox (Sept. 18, 2015). But this is a book review, rather than interview. I hope you’ll also check out my previous interview with Lynn (and read her blurb of Book One in this series, The Longleigh Chronicles):
Jilted by Joshua Longleigh, the man she was supposed to marry since The Incident in her twelfth year, Kate Morely sets out to prove she can win the greatest male prize of the Season before Josh capture the hand of Lady Camilla, the nonpareil of Almack’s. Unfortunately, that would be Harold Brumley whose only interest is making and taking snuff. She must use her wits to convince Harold she is fascinated by his hobby and succeeds, making Joshua jealous. She rouses the ire of Camilla who seeks to remove Kate from the competition in a plot that might very well prove fatal.
“I’m only stating the facts, Kate. We’ve known each other since childhood, and I feel I must be candid. Compared to the ladies of London, you are a pleasant enough country sunflower, but you cannot compete with the golden orb itself. Your dowry is only fair to middling. You shouldn’t set your sights too high when you come out this season.”
Joshua Longleigh adjusted the complicated tie of his cravat, trying to loosen the knot a bit for more comfort. Kate’s big brown eyes blazed up at him. He swore he could see little flashes of gold in them, like tiny lightning bolts.
“I hope you strangle on that thing. To think I have regarded you as my knight, my savior, ever since The Incident—and you say such things to me. Three years in London and all your chivalry is gone.”
“I was not your savior. When your mother ordered you laced into that corset to correct your posture, the maid simply became overzealous and tied you too tightly. If you had stayed in the house, you would have been fine. But no, you and Pandora had to chase after me and Jason. You ran out of air and fainted face down in the gravel path. Of course, I cut you free with my penknife. As a mere lad of fifteen, I had no idea how to undo a lady’s undergarment properly.”
“And now I suppose you do!”
His cheeks heated, flaring as red as hers beneath his dark complexion. “This not a proper subject for a girl taking her first steps out of the nursery.”
By Jeff Salter
The Greatest Prize
The Longleigh Chronicles, Book 5
By Lynn Shurr
First of all, I liked the concept of the heroine (Kate Morely) being a commoner who grew up with this family of atypical nobility and she has history with at least four of the Longleigh siblings. Included in that history is what has become known as “the incident” which occurred when Kate was hardly in her teens and Joshua Longleigh not much older. The incident itself would be hardly a trifle in the reader’s modern eyes, but in Kate’s era it was an instance of rather intimate familiarity. Because of that incident – though it’s not the sole reason – “everyone” in that family has assumed Kate and Joshua would one day become formally involved with each other.
The Longleigh family – led by Pearce and Flora Longleigh, the Duke and Duchess of Bellevue – has practically raised Kate and now is assuming the role of launching her into the society of the day (since Kate’s own mother is ill).
The core plot is whether Joshua and Kate will come together as a couple… and that seems quite unlikely since they resolve to wager that Kate will “win” a proposal by Harold Brumley (a viscount) and that Joshua will gain the hand of lovely Lady Camilla. Somewhat atypically, this wager does NOT remain a secret pact between Kate and Joshua… because Kate blabs it to the Longleigh sisters and Joshua reveals it to his brother Jason. Along the way, the duke and duchess become aware of the wager… and many others seem to know what’s going on.
Except for Brumley and Camilla.
Camilla has her own plans and goals… and she schemes unashamably to attain them.
There’s a LOT of social tension in the introduction of marriageable young ladies. They make their debuts in a series of balls and fetes — under tremendous pressure to do the right thing, appear the proper way, and say the correct words to the proper persons.
An undercurrent to this social season is a long-standing feud between two strong-willed matrons: Flora Longleigh and Lady Everton. The “good” duchess (Flora) confines herself to astute societal maneuvering, but the “bad” Lady seems willing to stoop to ANY under-handed measures to achieve what she wants for her charge.
There are smoldering grudges and wily traps a-plenty.
At the beginning of the story, Joshua is not terribly likeable, being more concerned with his clothing than with more important matters. And despite the improbable wager that seems certain to keep them apart, there is on-going sensual tension between Kate and Joshua.
When things don’t quite go the way Camilla wishes, she and two similarly wicked friends resort to more despicable plotting — that terrible trio seems willing to do anything to clear the social field and get their way. But are they competitive – and dastardly – enough to actually launch such a cruel and dangerous scheme?
Throughout the tale, Joshua faces a riddle: what is the greatest prize? Maddeningly, Kate won’t just tell him… and neither will his mother or his sisters. He must learn it for himself.
Along the way are some exciting dangers, a ghostly visitor, and many reversals of fortune.
Thank goodness for the crafty and amusing involvement of brother Jason!
Our poor hero, Joshua — just when things appear they might go his way, he discovers his bold self-assurance may be misplaced.
Our poor heroine, Kate — if she finally hears the words she’s longed for… what will her answer be?
Shurr writes with great descriptions and clever depictions of intrigue and suspense. She certainly has the reader rooting for Kate’s survival… and (hopefully) Kate’s success.
You may contact Lynn at email@example.com, www.lynnshurr.com or visit her blog – http://lynnshurr.blogspot.com/. She accepts friend requests on Facebook under Carla Lynn Shurr Hostetter. She’d would love to hear from you and have you review her books.
[JLS # 531]