The Officer and the Proper Lady (Harlequin Historical #1020) - Louise Allen 3.5 stars

For entertainment value alone, this book could have earned 5 stars from my grumpy, grubby talons. I never got bored. Shit just happens all over the place in The Officer and the Proper Lady. Most authors would gravitate toward just one of the three avenues Allen explored in the text, and that's the problem with romance today. They think we can't concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Sure, that's true 97% of the time. Like, as I write this review, I lose my place every time a car drives by the building. But seriously, I'm so flattered that Louise Allen thinks I can be teh smartz. Also, some of the conflicts are fucking HILARIOUS.

Unfortunately, most of the conflicts are fucking hilarious because of inconsistent characterizations. I can deal with irrational characters behaving irrationally, but when an otherwise sensible person does something so goddamn DUMB that my brain weeps its own brain cells into my sinus cavity, I chisel away at the stars. This teh smartz thing works both ways, fictional characters! Add to that a sluggish final 1/3 of story and some major Kindle formatting issues. Words kept breaking apart or being forced together, so I spent a lot of time translating sentences that should have been easy. At one point, Hal refers to himself as a "cockscomb", but the formatting made it read "cock scomb", and I laughed and laughed because I thought Allen had misspelled "scum" or something. Because what kind of man calls himself cock scum, right?

Oh, the stories I tell ...

Anyway, let's get to this grand, one-of-a-kind ... Harlequin Historical #1020.

The Story

An Officer meets a Proper Lady in Brussels in the days leading up to Waterloo. He's a rake, and she's a ... well, she's a proper lady. They try to stay away from each other because she's in desperate financial straits and needs a husband. Just being seen with him can destroy her reputation, but their passion burns too strong. Can their tenuous relationship survive the ravages of war? Will Wellington defeat Napolean? He does. Most importantly, can the officer tup his virgin miss without acting like a dwamatic wittle bitch about it? He can't!

The Officer

Major Hal Carlow is the second son of an earl and a dissolute rake. An outrageous flirt, Hal enjoys sexing up the ladies. Unless those ladies are virgins, in which case, Hal runs like the hounds of hell are on his heels. Naturally, his horse is the biggest, most fabulous-est horse in the British cavalry. And if the descriptions of his super-tight pants are to be believed, then he also has the biggest, most fabulous-est cockscumb in all of Brussels.

I liked Hal. He's a fun guy who enjoys drinking, gambling, and sleeping with married women without too much wangst. He lives a soldier's life and maintains a soldier's mentality. It isn't until Hal tries to "reform" for his proper little miss that his character starts to derail. He explains the change away as trying to be "worthy" of her. This leads to his laughable "What the hell do I do with a virgin?" hang-ups. Did he really think that using his rakish tricks in bed would give her pause? As a "proper lady", she has no point of comparison! Hal, this opportunity is golden. Stop crying!

The Proper Lady

Miss Julia Tresilian is set on finding a proper, staid husband to secure her mother and her younger brother for the future. She's pretty, but not too pretty, and she's hot in the knickers for Hal Carlow. For a so-called proper lady, Julia rarely acts particularly proper. Sure, she isn't riding bareback through the park with her breasts exposed or anything, but any time she's given the choice between ignoring temptation and embracing it, she wraps her arms around that devil so tightly that air can't get between them.

Julia is also a fucking dimwit. TSTL to the max! When Napolean's troops cross the Belgian border and everyone else in Brussels is getting the fuck out, what does Julia - a girl who has never done ANYTHING that would make her handy in a crisis - do? She tricks her mother and stays behind, of course! Because that's obviously the most SENSIBLE and PROPER thing to do! Now, I'm not from the early-19th century, but I can guarantee you that if there was even an off-chance that Napolean would charge into my town and blow my house down, I would run like the fucking wind. For the love of god, Julia! She can't keep "an eye out" on Hal if she ends up dead or displaced. Has this woman never heard of collateral damage or war refugees? Dumb. Just so dumb.

Later back in England, Hal and EVERYBODY ELSE tells Julia, "Hey, there's a gypsy bent on revenge against our inner circle who sometimes kidnaps our ladies and keeps trying to ruin our lives. Stay away from him." But Julia, Queen of TSTL Mountain, decides to take YEARS of grudges and politics between PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT HER into her own hands and approaches the vengeful gypsy ALONE IN HIS HOUSE to "work something out". Such a dumbass. Granted, Julia is a lucky woman. Staying in Brussels puts her in the position to save Hal's life. Going to the vengeful gypsy's house does not, in fact, result in gypsy rape and murder, although she very nearly gets Hal killed when he shows up to rescue her.

Yes, there's a Mysterious, Vengeful Gypsy in this story.

He's apparently been around for several of these Harlequin Historicals, and nothing - NOT EVEN WAR - can stop him from using his trickery against Hal's family. I'm not convinced that the gypsy's all bad, to be honest. I imagine he'll get his own book eventually, and the author will go to great lengths to describe how he's just misunderstood.

Julia Acquires a Groom with Knowledge about MODERN MEDICINE.

There's a hilarious scene in which Hal's dying of battle wounds, and Julia's newly acquired groom is just like, "I'll just stitch him up like I stitch up my horses." And then, OF COURSE, he keeps a clean environment because he learned that "just works better" with his horses. Also, he douses the wounds in alcohol just 'cause. My favorite part by far was when the groom scrubbed Hal's wounds with saltwater, apparently because he takes the horses out for rounds of aquatic water therapy. This can only bring me to one of 2 logical conclusions - A) Julia's groom is a time traveler, or B) Hal is a horse. You decide.

BUT I LIKED IT!

Despite Hal's virgin phobia and Julia's mouse brain, I genuinely enjoyed this book. The romance is very well done. It's easy to believe Hal and Julia's chemistry from beginning to end. My favorite part by far was chronicled in the days leading up to Waterloo. There was something very unsettling about following these people going to parties and balls, joking around in the park, and living rather ordinary lives just days before a huge battle. I couldn't help but read some of the descriptions of military characters and think, "Wow, he'll probably be dead soon." I loved reading about Brussels in that particular time, and it's clear that Allen did her research.

So sure, 3.5 stars to you, The Officer and the Proper Lady. The story isn't perfect, but I was certainly entertained!

Cock scumb.

LOL!