I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
I ended up enjoying this book much more than I thought I would have after chapter 1. That bramble scene left me extremely sceptical - I could see no way Heyer would be able to adequately redeem Lord D. and make me buy into this romance. But the dialog was intelligent and snappy, and I liked Aubrey, but most importantly, I'd challenged Bookstooge to read a romance and it would be poor sport to back out myself.
Comic relief comes into the first half of the book with Oswald, a wannabe suitor of Venetia's who has embraced Byron's work a bit too passionately; today he'd be called a fanboy. Venetia's other suitor, Edward... I hate this man as much as any fictional character can be hated. He is the stuff stalkers and abusive men are made of, while all the while everyone talks about how kind he is and what a good husband he'd be. I kept hoping he'd die of complications from chicken-pox.
We soon come to a mini-crises, a necessary excuse to bring Lord D. and Venetia back together and on terms that would force them to spend time together. I liked the scene in the dining room because Heyer didn't try to pull anything grand, or racy, or shocking; it was just a dinner between two people treating each other as new friends. The ordinariness and subtly of the scene was its appeal for me and I found it put them both to better advantage in my eyes.
From there, we have what I think of as the "bluebirds of happiness" moment - when Venetia wakes up in her room and the whole thing feels like a scene out of a Disney movie (Cinderella or Snow White, I forget which). My first reaction to this scene was always going to be to roll my eyes a tiny bit, but if I'm also being completely honest, Heyer nailed what it feels like to realise you've found an actual, real friend; not an acquaintance or even a buddy, but a true friend who 'gets' you.
But of course, this happiness can not be allowed to last; things cannot go on as they are as we are sorely lacking in misery and angst. Well, Heyer righted the listing ship with the introduction of Charlotte and Mrs. Scorrier. With Mrs. Scorrier, lots of other authors would have grossly overcompensated, but Heyer uses this opportunity to not only introduce the tension, but also the entertainment. Scorrier is a dragon met constantly by the dampening influence of other dragons, getting better than she gives. The verbal sparring was the highlight of the book, in my opinion.
Soon, things come crashing down around Venetia as Lord D. does, as she hoped, fall in love with her. Only the result of this is anything but what Venetia would have asked for. Instead of an offer, she is cajoled by her uncle into going to London to live with her aunt, with Lord D.'s support; he is fully aware that his scandalous past ensures no dignified future with Venetia - even as he works to get his personal affairs in order in preparation to propose marriage. His idiotic I know best / I must martyr myself attitude is sadly cliched but he gets bonus points for pragmatically accepting it was time to reap what he'd sown and do so with a minimum of melodrama.
But! Such a twist! So crafty is fate! The very thing meant to separate Venetia and Lord D. offers up the very tool she needs to ensure their future togetherness, and Venetia is not one to lose the advantage when it's handed to her. Unfortunately, this ending felt much rockier, much clumsier than the rest of the book; I can't quite put my finger on what exactly didn't work - maybe it was rushed? Maybe it went that tiny bit too far into unrealistic? I don't know. I didn't hate it, but I didn't think it was quite up to snuff. The best part of it, for me, the very best part, was the final scene between Venetia and Edward. I'd only have wished for her to have more opportunity to really let him have it with both guns blazing.
Overall, the book surprised me and I'd happily agree that this is one of Heyer's better books.