Lately I have been in the mood for romance. I’ve been on quite a binge to find just the right one because I am so picky about them. I prefer historical to contemporary. They can be lighthearted and fun, but I also want them to be somewhere in the realm of plausibility. After many false starts, I settled into Catherine LaRoche’s Master of Love– having chosen it despite its suggestive (and slightly cheesy?) title. It tells the story of Callista Higginbotham a down-at-heel but genteel bluestocking, librarian and dealer of rare books. She inherits the book business from her father, and it promptly begins to fail because his clients refuse to deal with a woman – not that they weren’t slowly going broke before he died, they were. Now it is accelerating at an alarming rate. Fortunately she receives a rare request to curate the personal library of Viscount Rexton, Dominick Avery. His wicked reputation as Lord Adonis, Master of Love hides a stunning intellect and love of philosophy, but he believes that no one will accept his smarts because he is so darn cute. Oh, the tragedy!
Master of Love is an engaging read featuring characters that are well-drawn and easy to like. The biggest impediment to my enjoyment of this novel was Dom’s insecurity about his intelligence. LaRoche gives further insight about just why he was so touchy about it, but that part still felt a little flat. It seems that a man of his time and rank would have been comfortable about just about any aspect of himself. Pushing that out of mind, I enjoyed the secondary characters and subplots, murder attempts, and general drama and shenanigans on the way to the inevitable and ultimate hook-up. LaRoche does a fine job of transporting readers back in time, and illustrating how difficult it was for a woman to maintain a household without the help of a man. Callista eventually gets the help of a powerful man, but it’s offered to her via marriage or her becoming a mistress. Had she not had that help, her life would have taken a severely different turn. I also loved that books were a prominent focus in this charming historical romance. Viva la bluestocking! Just one thing, though, this title is only being released as an e-book so far. Recommended.