Season for Surrender (by Theresa Romain)
Conflict: Big Secret / Reputation Ruination. Alex (known to the ton as Lord Xavier) puts a scandalous bet on Louisa Oliver. He has to invite her to his annual "naughty" Christmas party - for two weeks - and if she leaves (because she's too much of a soon-to-be-spinster), he looses the bet. This is a secret, just between Alex and his jerkface cousin (Lockwood). But Alex doesn't know that she knows!
Louisa decides to attend the naughty festivities, thinking "Meh. Well, what the heck - couldn't hurt. Not gettin' any younger, and I've had a crazy year, so I might as well have an adventure!" And she overhears Alex and Lockwood discussing their bet - and here's what I love... Instead of getting super-pissed, freaking out, and calling them out in front of everyone... she GOES ALONG WITH IT! Like this:
Alex (in the hallway to Lockwood): Lockwood, I know we made a bet, but you're totally forcing yourself on Louisa. It's rude and it's going to ruin her! Her reputation is worth more than ten pounds.
Lockwood (being a jerkface): Whatever killjoy. Give me your booze and quit nagging me.
Louisa (hidden in the hallway):
Game on, fools!
She's in on his scheme and therefore has more ammunition. (Knowledge is power, right?) Alex decides to take her to the library to keep her out of Lockwood's perverted grasp, so about 65% of the book takes place in the library. This AMAZING library. Although her initial reaction (internally) is amazement, she fakes a reaction of "Oh wow...it's... alright... I guess, you know, for a library..." This perplexes Alex, and he realizes that she's definitely no mousy/gullible bluestocking (like a geek who wears ratty granny panties). He realizes that she's actually a bookworm babe!
Why do I empathize with this heroine: She's just awesome. She loves reading and romances, and she's smart, and she's in control of her sexuality. She another heroine (my favorite type) who won't suffer a fool lightly just to look pleasant in front of everyone. Plus, she'll defend herself and her loved ones if backed into a corner.
Overall: Never bet against the bookworm romance-reader when love is on the line! The best was reading Louisa and Alex flirt with each other and bond during their library time - realizing that their impressions of the other was wrong... They're both sensitive intellectuals looking for a Happily Ever After.
In conclusion... Libraries are PERFECT for romances. The intimacy, the soft lighting, the quiet calm. All those winding staircases... shelves to grab on to... books with steamy scenes - the heroine even reads (and re-reads!) a scandalously suggestive romance!... hidden corners and spaces... all that [carnal] knowledge... I'm just saying... things can get crazy...
Warning: Searching for "libraries" (or almost anything) on Pintrest can
Now for some gratuitous library porn (of what I'd imagine Earl Xavier/Alex's library looks like - except pretend the lights are "oil lamps" or "candles", since I'm not clear on the logistics of gas-lighting during the Regency Era.):
NOTE: I'm counting this as book 2 for the Holiday Reading Challenge 2012, since it's during the Christmas season, but check out the author's note at the end (for quite a few pages), about how Christmas during Regency times was what we're usually expecting (like a Christmas celebration during Victorian era).