I have been in a mood lately for historical romance, and Kate Noble's last book, The Summer of You, left me with a bittersweet teary smile on my face. Read my review at Smart Bitches.

Read the last Smart Bitches, Trashy Books at Kirkus on Vanessa Kelly's My Favorite Countess.

Noble's new book, Follow My Lead, didn't leave me with the teary-sniffly smile, but it did leave me grinning. If you're looking for fun, adventurous road-trip romance with intelligent characters who are surprisingly brave, you'll like this book.

First, I have to wonder if Noble was paying homage to Georgette Heyer's novel Sylvester, because there were numerous winking references to the Heyer novel, including the hero leaping on board a ship and making an unintended voyage with the heroine—not to mention the hero's title, Duke of Rayne. I don't know that I would have noticed if I hadn't recently listened to Sylvester as an audiobook, but I thought it was clever and funny. I so rarely get in-jokes.   

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Winn is the daughter of a renowned scholar who has recently died. Winn was his caretaker and research assistant, and she did whatever else her father needed, forgoing the social glitter of London for the quieter, intellectually minded environment that allowed her to develop her own impressive intellect. Now that her father has passed away, Winn is determined to be recognized for her own scholarly contributions in the form of several well-read and popular articles she wrote under a pen name. Winn meets Jason, Duke of Rayne, when she is headed into the historical society to gain admission and she literally runs right into him.

From that moment, Winn's goals cause her to become linked with Jason—she wants respect as an art historian in her own right. She wants her inheritance, which is currently being tied up and sat on by her odious semi-fiancé George (more about him in a moment). She wants the independence of being an unmarried 30-year-old woman without the requirement that she be quietly independent in the nearest library. She wants to prove herself.

Winn's ready to eat life. Jason is thinking it's time to settle down and respectably find himself a duchess. Instead, he finds himself in the position of escorting Winn to Dover, where she is to set off across Europe to prove a painting has been attributed to the wrong artist. And, of course, Things Do Not Go According to Plan.

The reason this book wasn't as much of a joy for me as the prior novel rest on the antagonist. George goes from mildly annoying bully to Full On Crazysauce to such a degree it was hard to believe or take him seriously. He wasn't threatening by the latter third of the novel—he was a joke. His motivations weren't strong enough for his degree of nut-jobbery.

But I loved that Noble played with the idea of age and gender. Winn and Jason are both 30, but that means very different things for them because of their gender. There is also some class difference between them, but it was a cumbersome and clunky exploration that showed up at odd moments compared to the deftness with which the questions of gender, age and maturity are worked into the first two-thirds of the book.

Most of all, I loved their adventures as they traveled. So much happens in the course of this book that the journey is the best part, from their needle-in-a-haystack hunt for a set of 500-year-old papers to their misadventures in stables, taverns and village fairs. Road-trip romances—romances where there is occasionally hard travel and the accessories of society are not available for the protagonists—are among my favorite types—and this one is excellent.