Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
There is a gamble for an author to take a wildly popular story (or series) and reimagine it into a different sub-genre of romance. Laney Hatcher has led this charge in the SmartyPants Romance world. Decidedly crafting a new imprint, Out of This World, in her first story for SmartyPants Romance, she has deftly crafted Janey and Quinn Sullivan’s story from Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series into a historical romance.
I’ll admit. I was nervous for her as I entered Neanderthal Seeks Duchess. There is something magical about our Knitting in the City ladies; however, if NSD is any indication, we need not worry, dear reader. In this newest book, she has married the best qualities of historical romance (the stricture of societal rules, the complications of falling in love for purpose or for love, the muted $exual tension) with the things we love about Penny Reid’s famous series (a quirky heroine, a sullen, alpha-type hero, a gaggle of women creating a found family, etc.). For me, Neanderthal Seeks Duchess was a page-turner and a story I hated to leave to adult in the “real world.”
Jane is a woman having recently broken off her engagement when her fiance is written about in the ton’s gossip papers. Her father has turned his back on her, and her sisters had already abandoned her years earlier. Thankful for her friend Eliza who takes her in, she feels beholden to her and thus willingly accepts social invitations when she is certain she will be spurned by society due to her broken engagement. At one such engagement, she meets a mysterious man who ferrets her away when she aggressively and accidentally tears her dress. She feels an instant connection with this Lord Dashing, as she calls him. She believes she won’t see him again (thankfully, as it is scandalous to find a woman in a state of undress), and she has bigger issues: regaining the trust of the ladies for whom she’s been assisting in managing their households. Having lost this cottage industry for herself, she’s worried about her future, and she doesn’t want to rely more than she must on Eliza. When Lord Dashing, now formerly named Q for her, re-enters her life, he offers her an opportunity to figure out the books of a business he has recently purchased, a gambling hall. Ever protective of Jane, Q keeps his distance, but he is drawn to her. As Jane and Q fall deeper into love, Jane finds that Q has been holding secrets from her, and it potentially will affect their future.
What does Laney Hatcher do so well in Neanderthal Seeks Duchess beyond infusing the essence of Penny Reid’s series into this book:
- The suspense of Q and Jane’s story keeps you in its thrall.
- In the original stories from Penny Reid, Janey is incredibly quirky. In fact, for this reader, it sometimes seemed too much. Laney mutes this effectively for the genre of historical romance. It’s clear that Jane is different from the average lady of this time, but it seems right for this genre.
- Jane’s journey is one grounded in feminism for this genre. Add in Q’s acceptance of her as a partner, not chattel, and Hatcher has written a story that is woman positive, continuing the trend for historical romances. Besides Jane’s want to continue working, there are other messages about one’s found family, especially given the desertion of her family in her life.
Laney Hatcher’s Neanderthal Seeks Duchess is the ultimate promise of more delightful and intelligent stories in the Out of This World imprint. In fact, she treats you to a taste of book 2 at the end of NSD, and this reader cannot wait for more of it.
In love and romance,