Miss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.
Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.
All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.
Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.
Chloe “Yulin” Fong. She’s one of those prickly heroines – prickly *people* who are hard to know, because they’re so tightly contained. She has so much love in her, so many feelings, just so much emotion that instead of letting it spill out, she stuffs it in. It makes her awkward. It makes people think she’s cold and uncaring. She does have friends – people who have known her for years. And the townspeople know and like her, but they’re not “bosom buddies.” Chloe is a perfectionist obsessed with lists. She’s also a pushover, with the inability to say no to people. (This goes generally unappreciated.) She’s also trying to live up to her name, or what she thinks her name means, to help her father, to just get through everything. We get to see her as she is, not how she presents herself, and Chloe is someone you want in your inner circle. She’s hard to describe, so you’ll just have to read her.
Chloe and Jeremy are so similar, and yet so different. First of all, Jeremy is an absolute marshmallow. He’s a wonderful, fun, a good time hero. But he’s not fluff. He’s got unknown depths, but hides it in humor. He’s [also] paralyzed by what [right thing] to say in fraught situations, but his glib quick wit saves him. He seems brainless but it’s been cultivated. While Chloe freezes in situations, Jeremy is frozen internally but quick with a joke. He’s sadly had to train himself to be thus. However, this allows him to see Chloe. He understands her, and allows her ways to communicate when she’s stuck in her analysis. Then also, Jeremy is the “unknown duke.” The absent landlord, and he thinks he’s betrayed his friends. While Chloe has lived in the village most of her life, Jeremy has lived in China, and in “British high society.” He’s the “fucking duke.” I liked that he doesn’t take his station too seriously, but he does take himself seriously. He stayed away for a few years, but his mother’s advice to “root out every poisonous vine” really galvanizes him into action. Jeremy is generous, kind, and also someone you want on your side.
I really identified with Chloe and Jeremy for multiple reasons. I meant to write the review as soon as I finished it, but instead it’s been something of a [small] process. I think there will be a ~duality of connection for readers to this book. All of us have at one point or another, for one reason or another felt like we didn’t belong. Like an outsider. So there’s that universality. On another level though, there’s the specificity of being “othered,” and then especially being treated as if you don’t belong, even in your native land. While Chloe is fully Chinese, she’s spent most of her life in the village of Wedgeford Down, and it’s a lovely diverse place. (Although of course step foot out of it and …) Jeremy is a duke, and half white, but because he’s had to deal with the ton, with other heirs at school and such, he’s had to deal with a lot of bigotry and racism. Even from his own family. Despite his aunt loving him and wanting the best for him … she goes about it terribly. She loves him “despite” his “Chinese-ness” and she wants to erase it from the family. (Which … sounds horrible – because it is. She does love Jeremy but … is pretty toxic.) And that’s something this book deals with – toxic relationships.
No, really, he imagined himself saying. I really am prepared to give half my dukedom to you. But I should warn you — it’s no fun.
That would go over … extremely not well at all.
“Good morning, Uncle,” Jeremy essayed.“Is it.” It wasn’t a question. Mr. Fong still did not look up.Soft. Like a bunny rabbit. Ha. Maybe like a feral rabbit wearing battle armor while manning a cannon.
“The truth is,” he told her, “I’m not like you. I don’t make lists. I don’t have rational explanations for everything. If you asked me why I wanted you, I wouldn’t be able to give a carefully thought-out account. I could only say that you make me feel like the home I want to live in.”
*ETA: I forgot to address the topic of “dress to impress.” While there isn’t much description of clothes in the book – and I mean I wanted to read it anyway … their wedding outfits. I imagine what Chloe wore was quite striking, especially in England. I’ll link in the comments an image I think probably was what she was basically wearing.