#Book Review What Not to Bare – Love Saves the World reveals all
Lady Charlotte Jepstow dresses not to impress but to stupefy: mixing colors and patterns and embellishments with such exuberance that leaves her mother moaning, her lady’s maid lamenting her professional reputation — and leaving Lord David Marchston (newly-arrived from India) speechless: a rare feat considering he is a diplomat.
Lord David Marchston had been asked to return to England to escape the scandal of his indiscretion there. It grates at David to be in England, where he isn’t “Lord David the diplomat” but “Lord David, the incredibly handsome younger brother to a marquess”. He longs to return to India where he is useful, where he is more than just his pretty face. But, first, he must fulfill a mission: court Lady Charlotte. What he initially viewed as a chore becomes a pleasure as he gets to know the most charming, most interesting, most unusual woman he has ever met in his life.
In fiction, authors strive to create characters that have depth and dimension: round characters as opposed to flat characters but, in Megan Frampton’s What Not to Bare, she begins her story by introducing us to deliberately flat characters: Mr. Gorgeous and the Abomination.
Charlotte and David are identified by one defining aspect: their appearance. Charlotte is always outrageously dressed and David is so very, very handsome. (I wonder if Megan Frampton had a visual peg for this character. I am very, very curious. ^_^)
I loved Charlotte but I worried about her self-deprecating sense of humor and knew she was a girl with deep-rooted insecurities about herself. She knows she isn’t a great beauty like her friend Emma and sought to augment her plainness with her clothes (also she enjoys her mother’s reaction to her clothes). Then Emma leaves her fashion column for Charlotte to write, which would strike some as a bit contrary and ironic but I viewed it as the perfect job: it isn’t that Charlotte has zero fashion sense because she knows what is fashionable and owns actually owns some fashionable (read: conventional) outfits. Charlotte just chooses not be conventional. It is Charlotte’s own form of rebellion — she reminds me of another outrageously-dressed heroine: Jane Fairfield from Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect.
Although if she had a sister, probably the sister would be the Pretty One in the family, and Charlotte would be the Eternal Burden, and the Pretty One would not take it well when the most attractive man ever paid her sister such attention. Or worse, he would pay the Pretty One such attentions, and Charlotte would be eaten up with jealousy.
Frampton‘s uses the clothes as part of the plot device that moves the story forward and actually removes the clothes with such deliberate slowness and teasing. I was holding my breath when David was unbuttoning Charlotte’s … gloves. The sexual tension was so palpable!!! (*Fans self*) But, more than that, it ran parallel to the development of our hero and heroine’s love story: as more and more clothes are removed, David and Charlotte get deeper and deeper into their relationship and into discovering themselves. Typically, fictional armor and layers are removed to reveal characters to others but, in What Not to Bare, the revelation is for the characters themselves.
Throughout the story, we see them break out of the molds that society has cast them in. From flattened characters, we discover their depth and dimension and we see (and Charlotte sees) that there is more to her than her plainness and her outfits: she has an amazing sense of humor and a frankness that is disarming. Even David, who judged her first by her clothes slowly started seeing beyond them and knowing a Charlotte so lovable, so irresistible that makes him, for the first time in his life, consider staying in London just to be with her.
David found himself chuckling. A rarity — he was usually so good at hiding all his emotions, except when necessary for the task at hand. She made him laugh in spite of himself.
This novel really challenges perceptions: one is that we assume this would be a story of opposites attract: the plain Jane and the Prince Charming but, in reality, David and Charlotte are more similar than readers might think.
“Have you ever considered that having great looks is as much of a burden as being mocked for fashion?”
This was an incredibly charming and engaging story. Megan Frampton is a new-to-me writer and I’m so, so happy to have discovered her very captivating, very witty voice.
A final word: I loved, loved, loved The Fashionable Foible sections of the story. There was actually a tug-of-war going on because I really wanted to savor and linger at each chapter but I also wanted to get to the chapter’s end so I could read the column, which were incredible insightful.