Publishing Date: February 15, 2022
How do you solve the Perfect Equation? Add one sharp-tongued mathematician to an aloof, handsome nobleman. Divide by conflicting loyalties and multiply by a daring group of women hell-bent on conducting their scientific experiments. The solution is a romance that will break every rule.
Six years ago, Miss Letitia Fenley made a mistake, and she’s lived with the consequences ever since. Readying herself to compete for the prestigious Rosewood Prize for Mathematics, she is suddenly asked to take on another responsibility—managing Athena’s Retreat, a secret haven for England’s women scientists. Having spent the last six years on her own, Letty doesn’t want the offers of friendship from other club members and certainly doesn’t need any help from the insufferably attractive Lord Greycliff.
Lord William Hughes, the Viscount Greycliff cannot afford to make any mistakes. His lifelong dream of becoming the director of a powerful clandestine agency is within his grasp. Tasked with helping Letty safeguard Athena’s Retreat, Grey is positive that he can control the antics of the various scientists as well as manage the tiny mathematician—despite their historic animosity and simmering tension.
As Grey and Letty are forced to work together, their mutual dislike turns to admiration and eventually to something… magnetic. When faced with the possibility that Athena’s Retreat will close forever, they must make a choice. Will Grey turn down a chance to change history, or can Letty get to the root of the problem and prove that love is the ultimate answer?
About the Author:
Elizabeth Everett lives in upstate New York with her family. She likes going for long walks or (very) short runs to nearby sites that figure prominently in the history of civil rights and women’s suffrage. Her series is inspired by her admiration for rule breakers and belief in the power of love to change the world.
I enjoyed this book. It has the classic enemes-to-lovers thing going for it as well as a hero and heroine who have put up some pretty strong walls around their hearts and have a lot of soul-searching to do before they can be together in a healthy way.
I loved the concept of Athena’s Retreat as a haven for female scientists, though I thought they really could have used more page time. A lot of them were glossed over so much that it was hard to keep track of them. There was a lot of opportunity for representation among them but it was all so minor it didn’t add up to much. However, it is possible they had more page time and development in the first book. Even so, more page time in this book would have balanced a very Letty and Grey heavy story.
I loved Letty’s family and that rather than toss her out for her mistake they simply retrench around her. I wish they’d had more page time. Sam and his ability to sell anything was a lot of fun.
I really loved Grey’s boyish moments when he lets his control slip enough to actually express emotion. Especially when Milly and Willy show him sodium’s exothermic reaction (explosion).
I loved Winthram and how they all accepted him as a man without question despite him being trans. I can’t speak to how it was handled in the first book as I haven’t read it yet, but I really liked his treatment in this one.
Grantham was amusing and could have used more page time. I’m definitely looking forward to his book next.
The villains were not as villainous as they first appeared and I appreciated that they weren’t cartoonishly evil. Nevin definitely did not make me like him very much until his decent act at the end. It was a good choice and definitely showed him as a character who could be redeemed.
There were some things that bothered me, however, in addition to the lack of page time of the members of Athena’s Retreat:
Letty and Grey had too much sexual attraction going. Like they couldn’t have a conversation without having sex somewhere improbable. As the story went on, the time between improbable sex scenes decreased and my enjoyment decreased with it.
For a book about a mathematician, there’s surprisingly little math. Mostly we get visions of Letty’s weird math world inside her head which felt strange. It’s just accepted that to do math you have to zone out and experience the inside of your head as a river with equations floating around in it and then come to and realize you’ve covered a blackboard in equations. It just… didn’t feel like an accurate portrayal, speaking as someone who went to school with a bunch of scientists and mathematicians.
The other scientists’ work was also glossed over and most of what we do see is played for comedic effect. Which is funny but… I feel like they could have shown some of the serious side of science? Not just the escaped tarantulas and bird hats side with some explosions thrown in for good measure?
Letty and Grey’s problems were relatable and made them easy to root for however, and their banter and eventual getting together were very romantic and made for excellent reading. So, despite my issues with it I did very much enjoy it.
I would recommend it for fans of Evie Dunsmore’s Bringing Down the Duke (League of Extraordinary Women) series.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for providing an e-arc for review.
Slipping through the crowd, Letty approached the building as a thin wail rose from the doorway. A beady-eyed man with a pinched mouth and spidery fingers had grabbed the shopgirl by the wrist, halting her escape.
“Don’t bother trying to go to work. We’re shutting this place down until they stop employing women in their factories and hire the men back,” the man said.
A tinkling of broken glass punctuated his threat as someone launched a sign at the ground-floor window of the shop. The atmosphere turned in an instant from hectoring to predatory. With a foreshadowing of violence, the group of individuals molded into a single organism-a dragon ready to pounce on whatever threatened. This monster’s hoard consisted of power rather than gold.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Letty said through gritted teeth, clenching the straps of her heavy reticule in one hand.
“Letty!” Sam called after her. “Letty Fenley, you come back here this instant. I know you don’t listen to me, but for goodness’ sake, will you listen to me?”
Fear set her stomach to churning, but Letty allowed nothing to show on her face. Instead, she stuck her chin out and her shoulders back. Never again would she suffer a man intimidating her into submission, and she’d be damned if she watched this happen to any other woman. As Flavia Smythe-Harrows always said, sexual dimorphism does not excuse bad behavior.
What a pity Letty didn’t have that printed on a banner.
Without benefit of a rival sign, she used what was available in the moment. Swinging her reticule around twice to achieve maximal momentum, Letty brought it down, hard, on the wrist of Beady Eyes.
“You let go of that girl, right now, you weasel-faced, onion-breathed . . .” Letty’s stream of insults was drowned in the crowd’s protest at the sight of their fellow man being assaulted by what someone deemed “half a pint-sized shrew.”
“Half a pint indeed,” Letty shouted back. “I’m less than an inch shorter than the median height for a woman of my weight, based on-Oy, stop waving that sign in my face.”
Before Letty could take another swing at Beady Eyes, the sound of horses whinnying and men shouting from somewhere at the edge of the crowd broke the tension; a decrescendo from taunting voices to garbled protests heralded the arrival of authority. Jumping up for a better look, Letty spied two well-dressed men on horseback.
“On your way,” a clipped, aristocratic voice shouted to the crowd. “Disperse at once.”
The crowd buckled, its mood shifting from dangerous to frustrated. Letty protected the girl as best she could from the sudden shoving around them. Most of her attention, however, fixed on the familiarity of those crisp, clean syllables echoing in the air.
She would know that voice anywhere. Their rescue rode toward them in the form of Lord William Hughes, the Viscount Greycliff. A traitorous wave of relief that he would put an end to the danger was quickly followed by a cold dose of shame.
Six years ago, she’d believed him the epitome of nobility and elegance until that voice had delivered a verdict upon her head. The words he’d said and the pain they’d caused were etched into her memory forever.
“I don’t care if you’re Prince Albert himself. Move your arse, man!” A deeper baritone, the voice of Greycliff’s companion, now carried over the crowd. “Put down the signs, or I’ll put them down for you.”
“Are they here to rescue us?” the girl asked.
Visions of Greycliff riding up on a snow white steed flashed before Letty’s eyes. A handful of years before, such an image would have set her heart to racing and put roses on her cheeks. She would have caught her ruffled skirts in one hand, ready to be swept away by a hero, lit from behind by a shaft of golden sunlight.
Not anymore. The dirty grey-brown reality of working-class London remained solid and smelly before her eyes. These days, romantic scenes remained between the pages of a well-thumbed book.
“Never wait for someone else to rescue you,” Letty advised. “Especially a man. They’ll ride away on those fine horses afterward, and where will you be? Still here, cleaning the mess, having to work for an owner who couldn’t even be bothered to come out here after you. Rescue yourself, my dear.”
“Shall we run for it?”
“We could, but I’ve a better idea.” Letty turned to Beady Eyes and held up her reticule. The man flinched, but she had other plans.
“Want to get rid of two troublesome women?” she asked him. Pouring out a palmful of coins, Letty made an offer. “Here’s your chance.”