To the fancy London set, Felix is known as the Ideal Gentleman, a man beloved by all who can do no wrong. This couldn't be further from the case, but he plays up his image and never makes a move without calculating how it could best add to his power and control. Obviously you know there's some unhappy childhood backstory that started the desire for all this cold manipulation (because there always is) and truthfully, his is pretty bleak.
And then we have Louisa, who is a genteel nobody hell bent on securing herself a match this Season. She needs to marry because her family is all sisters, and one of them epileptic besides. Louisa is only passably pretty, she has raunchy dreams, and her chest is flat (yay!), but a carefully plotted concoction of makeup, the appearance of a demure and agreeable personality, and bust enhancers combine to make her a success in society, if not in marriage.
When the two meet, they see through each other's artifices almost immediately. And so it begins.
Do not read this book unless you're willing to forgo an evening and all the useful things you could have done with your time (it's perfect, however, as a tool for procrastination). I wasn't looking for a new romance author to enjoy, but Sherry Thomas just threw the doors open, barged in and kept me up until the birds outside started telling me I'd better get some sleep.
Because the banter, oh the banter. The getting together bit was splendid -- theirs isn't exactly a love/hate relationship, because neither of them deny their attraction for each other. In fact the whole attraction thing is the initial bedrock of their relationship and the only thing that keeps them together when their misunderstandings rip them apart. Not the healthiest of relationships -- yet.
It's just the very important issue of trust that leavens the bread of their misunderstandings, and it's delicious. Louisa thinks he's just in it for the chase (or charity) and will tire of her somewhere down the road, so she tries not to let on how deeply in love she is (because smart as she is, she doesn't actually understand his motives, wily fox that he is). Felix refuses to allow himself to trust her with his heart, having had miserable success with that practice in the past, and also believes she's just marrying him for his money (which is something she hilariously bargains for when he proposes to her).
The road to happiness is long and winding for these two, because neither of them trust the other, despite being nearly exactly alike. They both know how to hurt each other in the keenest ways and are absolutely wary of letting each other in. They both share a passion for astronomy, which was a delightful element to their romance. I like nerdy heroes or heroines, but having both was an unlooked for gift.
Felix and Louisa are a pair of bold, complicated, vulnerable, and manipulative characters and they deserve each other. Happily so.