In a word: cautiously.
Comment: Two years after reading the first book in what is likely going to be a quartet focusing the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a name given to four soldiers during the Napolean wars who managed to be brave together and survived to keep being good friends, the third book is finally out. This series about four lords in different financial and family situations has everything to be compelling, starting with the amazing writing. But although I loved the first book, the second left me disappointed. I expected greatness from this one and it wasn't bad but I still hoped for more at the same time.
In this book we meet two characters, Lord Seelye Burton, brother to a duchess and Lady Jane Babcock, sister to a duke. Their respective siblings are married so they must also deal with one another quite often. The problem is that Jane has a reputation of being arrogant and defiant and she has refused several marriage proposals.
After a long time not seeing one another, they meet again at a ball where our hero says some ill timed things, hurting the heroine's feelings. The question is, Jane has always refused others because she has been in love with Lord Burton since she was practically a child, because he used to be kind to her. Seeing he's no different from others puts both of them in a path of proving the other wrong and dealing with the fact they are perfect for each other.
But will they be happy together if they ever admit such a thing or will they keep on being enemies?
This author's style is very witty and touches on comedy. I believe this is a weird and complicated duel to fit well so one must congratulate the author on her writing skills and technique, because the narrative sounds brilliantly done.
I just think that a lot of focus is given to the situations the characters are in and their reactions to it, rather than the romantic development of the relationship between them. Somehow this didn't feel as obvious in the first book and as far as I remember that one was more balanced.
Seelye and Jane have known each other since she was a child, she is the youngest sister of George, one of his mates before the war. His sister married George, so there is always a connection between the families. I can totally understand why Jane has focused on Seelye and why she thought of him as the man for her to marry. It's logical, though, her childhood memories can't match the reality at 100% because everyone changes and who he is now must be different after so many experiences in his life, namely the war and his actions in it.
Thus, most of the story is the dealings between Jane, someone everyone considers difficult and unapproachable, and Seelye, a charming man who doesn't think he's as worthy of things as others seem to think he is.
I must say I liked Seelye a lot, he's conscious of others, of what things mean and after a comment from Jane he tries to act as best as he can to prove her wrong and that his character isn't something to be ashamed of. He has some regrets though, things we find out closer to the end of the book when his relationship with Jane is in a more advanced stage. He is truly a genuine man with a personality to match and his actions prove him as being an amazing man.
Jane is more difficult to care about. She comes as too obstinate and without enough vulnerabilities to make her more accessible as a person. But she cares for those she loves and that is obvious by her actions through the book.
The romance was...slow, which is a good thing because they had time to know each other before anything was settled between them. However, it wasn't always easy to understand how deep their feelings were being taken by the other because 1) the scenes where they would think so weren't many and 2) it seems the story was more focused on how fun things were, how ironic and sarcastic, than a real discussion of what would be their future.
I can understand this, it's the author's style of presenting things but...along with the comedy scenes, part of the book felt boring and sometimes I didn't mind putting the book down.
I liked the writing per se, though. So many perfectly inserted comments, notions, situations where the perfect rebuke would happen... the character dealings felt brilliant even if sometimes unnecessary...
All together, this was a very good novel and I was happy with the HEA. But the first book keeps on being the best one for me.