|Those who read Julianne MacLean’s To Marry the Duke will remember Lady Lily Langdon, younger sister to the hero of that story. Lily runs away with a Frenchman who turns out not to be a gentleman, and is rescued by her brother, sister-in-law and family friend, Whitby.
Love According to Lily begins several years later at the annual shooting party given by Lily’s family. Edward Wallis, the Earl of Whitby, with whom Lily has been in love since childhood is expected to attend. Knowing that Whitby sees her as nothing more than his friend’s little sister, Lily decides to use this hunting party as an opportunity to find a husband.
From the beginning, though, things are very different from previous parties. Lily takes the advice of her sister-in-law, Sophia, and dresses and acts in a way to force Whitby to see Lily as a woman. And Whitby is ill, very ill, with a mysterious disease. It quickly becomes apparent that Whitby will probably die without an heir, leaving his estate and his sister in the hands of their vile cousin, Magnus. While spending her nights nursing Whitby, Lily conceives of a plan to marry him and become pregnant as quickly as possible. She feels this will solve Whitby’s estate problems and will give her a piece of him to keep forever. At first reluctant, Whitby finally agrees to Lily’s plan and they make love one night and inform their families the next day that they plan to marry.
Their lovemaking is classic MacLean. The scenes are very warm and sensual with lots of talking and description, without being clinical or gross. You’ve got to love a hero that says, “How does this feel?” and “What about this? Is this better?”
Adversity comes quickly and in several different forms. First is Lily’s brother and mother’s objection to her plan. Her mother hates Whitby and always has, considering him to be a wastrel and a rake, and she feels Lily is ignoring her duty to the family by marrying him. She departs for London immediately when she realizes she cannot influence Lily to change her mind. Lily’s brother simply feels that it is an ill-thought plan and they’ll both suffer from it. Second is Whitby’s reaction when he is told that he’s not going to die after all. He and Lily hear the news at the same time, and while she is speechless with joy, she looks at Whitby and watches the light die in his eyes when he realizes the irrevocable step they have taken. Last is the issue of cousin Magnus lingering like a black cloud on the horizon.
After Lily and Whitby leave for his family home, the book begins to drag. Almost the entire middle third of the book is devoted to the conflicts in their marriage. In this case, Whitby fears that Lily will die in childbed and for some reason refuses to talk to her about it. He repeatedly hurts Lily’s feelings by avoiding the issue. What takes a terribly long time as written could have been cleared up with one frank and honest discussion.
The love scenes between the characters are nice, but are not enough to keep a reader’s attention while Whitby learns to deal with his emotional problems. Instead, the pacing slows to a crawl and leaves the reader impatient for something exciting to happen again.
Fans of Julianne MacLean’s previous novels will enjoy the look this book provides into the mind and motivations of Lily’s mother. Previously, she was a truly horrible character, but she expresses regret and jealousy that Lily was strong-willed enough to marry the man she loves, while she herself was not. Also, the reader is given an understanding as to why she was such a bad mother while her children were growing up.
Love According to Lily is reduced from a great read to mediocre by all the angst in the middle of the book.