Thoughts After Reading:
I don't think I could possibly ask for a more enjoyable writing style than the one found in Patricia Rice's The Devilish Montague. The top layer of the plot is consistently lighthearted, humorous, and - for lack of a better word - cute. At the same, though, there is a considerable depth to both the characters and the storyline... a depth that is uncovered gradually as the action progresses. Comic relief and fun subplots kept the story from ever becoming overly angsty as the story headed towards the conflicts, and I admired Rice all the more for it. The result is a charming marriage of convenience story, one that is equal parts amusing and meaningful.
When I first started reading The Devilish Montague, I became worried that it would be too silly. Within the first 15% of the novel, the hero accidentally gets shot in the foot and the couple gets into a number of squabbles. And the silliness never completely goes away. As a result, it was surprising how much the characters came to mean to me. The heroine turns out to be a beautiful young woman with an extremely caring nature. She has a variety of siblings, the most notable of which are an older and younger brother. The older brother is a real jerk, verbally and at times physically abusive, who eventually kicked his relatives out of the family home. The younger brother, on the other hand, is the one the heroine most wants to protect. He has (what I would guess is) autism, and has a particular love of his birds. As a result of her older brother, she has learned to ignore or charm her way out of confrontation - in other words, she has a hard time trusting men. She doesn't particularly want to marry, having given up the idea on Prince Charming a long time ago. All she really wants is a stable home for herself and her younger brother.
The hero was a particularly fun character. He can be surly or reticent at times, such as when he's idle or when he's being cosseted by his family. His bark, however, is worse than his bite - his actions repeatedly show him to be a good and honorable man. For example, there's a very sweet scene where he takes risks to save a stray dog because he knows it's what the heroine would want, even though she's not there. He's served in the military in the past, and wants to get back in by buying a commission. He believes he can crack the French codes, but cannot convince anyone to give him the information - short of becoming an officer himself.
The hero and heroine become somewhat compromised in the eyes of society towards the beginning of the story, and they begin to consider marriage to each other. The heroine has a generous enough yearly allowance for the hero to buy his commission. Plus, if he has to get leg-shacked, it might as well be to the woman whose beauty affects him like none other. The heroine, in turn, is interested in the country home the hero gains upon marriage, which turns out to be her old family home. She also finds his behavior - and kisses - to be commendable, at least when they're not arguing. So they get married, and then the real fun begins. There's a number of moderate obstacles that crop up, such as the intruder that breaks in right as the they're about to consummate the marriage. Or when the hero finds out that the heroine secretly used up this year's allowance to gain guardianship of her brother, and won't have access to the next installment til January. Over time, however, they develop a closeness amongst the rather lighthearted events. There's a steady spy/mystery theme towards the latter part of the book, which ties almost everything nicely together at an external conflict. The heroine finds that there is at least one man in the world worthy of her trust, and ultimately gains the self-confidence to tackle conflict head-on. The hero finds in the heroine a woman worthy of his growing besottment, and everyone goes home happy in a very satisfactory manner.
I found Patricia Rice's The Devilish Montague to be an amazing read. The novel contained many lighthearted, comedic, and sweet elements, and it did so without sacrificing nearly anything in the way of character and relationship development. It was one of the more enjoyable marriage of convenience books I've had the pleasure of reading, and I definitely plan to check out Rice's other works.