Maxwell, Cathy. The Fairest of Them All. New York: Avon Books, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-238863-6. Print List Price: $7.99.
As a second installment in the Marrying the Duke series, I found this story interesting, but not as wonderful as the first one. While, like many romance novels, it can be read as a stand-alone, I personally found reading The Fairest of Them All after The Match of the Century a lot more of an enriching experience.
For one, we need to talk about Gavin. He was the rival in the first book, but he was still likable and charming enough that even though you wanted Elin and Ben together, you still feel a pang that Gavin is left alone. But in this one, some of his behavior rubbed me the wrong way. There are some cute moments on his part, like when he confides in Jack about his lack of experience, but the fact that he is so infatuated with Charlene and so afraid of the fact that she is in love with Jack that he not only sabotages the meeting Jack was meant to have to discuss American-British relations (leading to the War of 1812), but has him confined and tries to force him to leave, is so infuriating, and triggers everything I hate about love triangle storylines where the third person in the relationship is kind of an asshole. The one saving grace for this aspect is that Maxwell hints that he will find love where he least expects it with the last woman he could ever think of to marry, leading to the premise of his own book.
As for the romance between Jack and Charlene, it was cute and sweet, and, as the title suggests, there is a fairy-tale-like quality to their bond, which she has been looking for since she was a child. But other than that, the chemistry between the two did not resonate with me quite as much as the first book, and I didn’t really feel a spark there.