I'm a total spazz. I was reading a book and it mentioned a hedgehog as being the best animal sidekick (bonus points if you know what book I'm talking about!) and so I had to discover which book was being talked about and sure enough, it was Laura Kinsale's Midsummer Moon. I had to read it immediately...and that reminds me, I never did pick back up that other book. LOL
So I was initially put off by the war stuff and the killing plot but the lure of that hedgehog was a strong one and overcame my doubts. And I'm glad for it! Merlin is the kind of heroine I like. She was raised in somewhat odd circumstances by her uncle who was just as invention mad as she was. Needless to say, she wasn't raised with proper manners and etiquette. She frequently gets so drawn into her work that she forgets to eat and sleep and her servants take very good care of her. She comes to Lord Falconer's attention because of a device she's invented. She thinks he's talking about her flying machine...but he's talking about her talking box. Ransom is tasked with protecting Merlin and he figures he'll go to her home, explain the situation to her and take her to his ducal manor to hide her out until she's safe. Except Merlin doesn't want to leave her home and she doesn't really think she's in danger...
That first night in Merlin's home, Ransom somehow seduces her (blame the hedgehog, he was in the salt dish). So on top of convincing Merlin to come to his home, he also has to convince her to marry him. But Merlin sees marriage as curtailing her freedom. Already Ransom is trying to prevent her from working on her flying machine. And even when he does get her to remain tucked away at his home, he still has a heck of a time getting her to marry him.
I thought Midsummer Moon was hilarious. I dog-ear (gasp!) pages in a book where I enjoy a particular turn of phrase or something moves me. The first half of Midsummer Moon had quite a few turned down pages. It was super funny. First there's Merlin. She's grown up somewhat isolated from society and so she takes everyone literally. The little nuances of sarcasm and analogy make no impact on her, she takes everything said at face value.
"Can you organize it? Ransom said you could."
"I shall do my poor best."
Merlin frowned. "Oh. I'd hoped you'd do our best best."
Also, I loved the fact that Merlin could not remember Ransom's name or title for the first half of the book, and this rubbed off on everyone else. Ransom Falconer, Duke of Damerrel. Merlin calls him at various points, Mr. Damerell, Duke Falconer and my favorite, and the one that stuck, Mr. Duke. LOL Other characters and Ransom himself, refer to him as Mr. Duke at some points of the story.
How funny is that? She doesn't even remember his name? hahaha
The second half of the book is more serious than humorous (although it's still funny). As you can imagine, there are some personality clashes between Ransom and Merlin. They live in totally different worlds. And there's some miscommunication between them because of it. Not intentional miscommunication - but a genuine inability to understand the other person. Ransom, knowing he wronged Merlin by seducing her, tries to do the right thing. He knows it's his duty to marry Merlin. He operates and lives his life based on his position in society. He is a duke, he has to be proper, he has to do the right thing, fix any mistakes. Merlin meanwhile, doesn't think anything of the fact that Ransom seduced her. She doesn't think that's any reason to get married. Her world is currently focused on her flying machine. Everything revolves around that. She sees things as having to do with the flying machine or not. And Ransom is trying to prevent her work on the flying machine (his fear of heights and all, he sees her machine as a flying death trap). And she comes to understand that as the duke, he pretty much can boss her around. Now who'd want to marry that?
"Well," she said abruptly. "I supposed I have no choice."
Merlin stood up. She squared her shoulders and glared up at him. "If I ever get to be a duke, I won't be as big a bully as you are, I can tell you that!"
"Since you are exceedingly unlikely ever to get to be a duke, I don't think we need concern ourselves with the prospect."
"One just never knows, does one?" She held out her skirt and turned from him with a flounce. When she reached the door, she stopped and looked over her shoulder. "And if I should, I shall expect you to address me properly. It will be 'Miss Duke' to you, you may be sure!"
Merlin is an absent-minded genius. And Ransom is a bit of a stiff, strict, stick in the mud. Seeing these two come together was so much fun. And the secondary characters were great as well. Midsummer Moon gets 4 stars from me.
p.s. Wondering about that hedgehog? He was cute! He definitely comes in handy.