Almost exactly a year ago, I read Miranda Neville's first book, Never Resist Temptation. It was an April 2009 Phave. At the time I remarked how surprised I was at how much I liked it, because, frankly, I expected another wallpaper historical. That is not what I got then, and that is most definitely what I did not get with Neville's latest, The Wild Marquis. Sadly, the title does lend itself to thinking "Wallpaper, ahoy!" but honestly, just like with a Harlequin Presents, you cannot judge a book by its title. And while we're at it, don't judge this book by its cover either.
TWM is Neville's second book and I found myself liking this one even more than her first. It is not connected to NRT. This book is about Juliana Merton, a widowed bookseller who is barely able to make ends meet. Despite her extensive knowledge of books and the book trade, book collectors, who were mostly men, were unwilling to trust her abilities or hire her to act as their agent during book auctions. She is barely scraping by. And a rather larger and important book auction is looming. Juliana needs a patron for the auction so she can bid on a particular book that has sentimental meaning for her, not to mention so she can earn enough to support herself.
Enter the hero, the "wild Marquis" of the title. Cain, the Marquis of Chase has a very unsavory reputation. Thrown out of his home by his father at the age of 16, Cain lived mostly on his wits until his father died and Cain came into his title and fortune. He remains estranged from his mother and sister and is clearly a hero with some issues. Cain is interested in buying a particular book that is about to be auctioned at Sotheby's because he recognizes it as something that used to belong to his father. He is curious as to how it ended up in the auction in the first place. Cain hires Juliana to represent him at the auction and Juliana has the opportunity to recover that book she wanted.
Both Juliana and Cain have mysteries they want to solve, and of course, the mysteries intersect at the auction. These mysteries keep the plot moving forward, but I didn't think they ever overshadowed the developing relationship between Juliana and Cain. As in her first book, Neville writes clever dialogue and intelligent characters. Once again I liked how this book takes place in Regency England, yet with a setting that is most definitely off the beaten path. Neville writes knowledgeably about the book trade and the auction process without overwhelming the reader with trivial detail. A good bit of the story takes place in Juliana's little shop or at the auction house.
There is much more to this book, though. Cain has a complicated relationship with his family and he sets about repairing some of that. The secondary characters are interesting and while there's some sequel baiting here, it's lightly done.
This is just a gem of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and am happy to recommend. I was also lucky enough to buy it as an ebook just before April 1 when the Agency 5 pricing model kicked in. In other words, I got it at a discount. Hopefully the discounts will be available again when the next book comes out later this year.