Always The Rebel by Emily EK Murdoch
This is the 10th book in the Never The Bride series, but it stands pretty well alone - I haven’t read any of the others and didn’t have any trouble following along with the plot, even though apparently both principal characters have appeared in previous books and other characters are obviously recurring.
Jilted at the altar for the second time, Sophia Worsley is absolutely done with living up to Society’s expectations. Turning up at her erstwhile groom’s wedding in breeches, she knows she’s marking herself forever unmarriageable - and that suits her just fine. Her rebellion attracts the attention of the jaded Earl of Marnmouth, though, and suddenly she finds herself running into the dratted man everywhere.
Philip needs to marry, but has vowed to choose only a woman who is capable of surprising him. The beauty wearing breeches into Almack’s definitely fits the bill, but she’s sworn off marriage.
I really liked Sophia’s rebellious streak and the fact that she had just gone past caring what anyone else thought of her. I was not so keen on the fact that she didn’t seem to have any plan for her life. At all. Other than ‘don’t want to get married’ she didn’t seem to have any actual ideas about what she DID want to do. No goals, no passions, no ambitions. Not even any hobbies apart from playing cards. Sophia also did a couple of things which were just plain stupid - after going alone to a gambling den wearing breeches and getting into a difficult situation she had to be rescued from, she went back AGAIN without taking any backup! It’s the literal definition of asking for trouble and annoyed me intensely. I also found the age gap a bit troubling - Sophia is 23, Philip 41 - as well as Philip’s dismissive attitude towards his previous mistresses (many) and illegitimate children (three). Maybe it was realistic for an unmarried lord of his age in the time period, but it definitely made him hard to like as a romance hero.
Neither character seemed to have much of a growth arc. Philip found what he wanted - a woman who could challenge him - and Sophia changed her mind about marriage because… Philip said he loved her, I guess? I didn’t hate this, but it really wasn’t particularly my cup of tea. I’ll give it three stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.