What can I say? I saw a historical romance that included a mystery to it and I was hooked. I’ve not read this author’s work before and I love trying new authors so I cracked open this book with anticipation and found more to enjoy when I encountered the hero and his storyline. With a few reservations, I had a good time with this story.
Lady Julia Chandler has resolved that enough is enough. She’s tired of all the speculation her extended betrothal to the Duke of Bedford has brought on and now that he’s returned home she plans to accost him and bring him up to scratch. She encounters him earlier than expected near the ruins of a nearby estate that belonged to his brother. He’s acting a bit different and welcomes her attempted seduction even as he warns her that she’s making a mistake. Julia soon learns that she has unwittingly attempted to seduce Bedford’s twin prodigal brother, Daniel, which will prove problematic if for no other reason than she enjoyed their shared kiss.
Daniel Bryant fled his home ten years earlier as a result of someone trying to kill him by setting fire to his home with him in it. His brother Edmund had made it clear just after their father’s death that he was unwelcome and with no reason to stay, he set off to America with a school friend and made his fortune. As a result of receiving a brief mysterious note, he is back to discover the answers to questions he’s had for years about why someone wanted him dead. He is sidetracked when he shares a kiss with Julia. It bothers him that she is engaged to his horrid brother and seems unwitting as to the true nature of her affianced. Daniel adds rescuing Julia to his list of things to do.
Once Daniel starts looking into the past, someone grows uneasy about what he will discover and his involvement with Julia does not go unnoticed by his brother who takes the opportunity to make Daniel and Julia pay by ruining Julia. Julia’s eyes are opened, but now she determines that she can’t accept Daniel being the answer to saving her from her ruination unless he confesses his love and she is determined to help him and his friends figure out what happened before and what information he possesses that is worth killing him over.
This one was lighter historical, but heavy on the romance and mystery. The plot was a fairly good one with the dual threads it was following. I was into Daniel’s quest to get Julia away from his evil brother and the romance between them and I really liked puzzling out what it was that was causing his brother to race around hunting papers and cause people to want him dead. I actually figured it out not far into the story, but that was okay and I was willing to stick around and see how the characters would work it out. I really enjoyed exploring how great a fit Daniel and Julia were for each other. She was a strong woman who cared for her family and the family estate when others couldn’t. She wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty to give relief to a poor family. And she planned to be strong and help the duke as a partner and not just a trophy wife. I totally admired all that about her.
But about half way through, I got irritated with Julia which seems to be my lot lately with heroines. She was so set on getting Bedford to marry her that she was willing to go way over the line of propriety to achieve this- so far, no big deal to me. Then she gets a bit flustered over Daniel and confused because she knows she can’t take the betrothal with the duke lightly even if she is attracted to his younger brother- still not a problem and I enjoyed this dilemma. But then when she discovers the truth about her fiancé’s character and he acts against her, things change. Daniel makes a perfectly acceptable proposal to save her. She even likes him better than his brother and wants him, but…yes there is a but. She admits she never loved Bedford and was willing to take him and do her duty, but now suddenly she won’t countenance accepting a proposal unless Daniel spouts his love for her and apparently all those loving actions of caring for her and her family, respect for her as a person and desire to keep her safe cry out something different to her. So based on her actions I must conclude that only cold-hearted scheming dukes get a free pass and a claim on her duty and affections (kidding sort of), but I get it. There wouldn’t have been much tension in the romantic plot without this new barrier being thrown up. In and of itself, the sudden mulishness wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but it was accompanied with other forms of mulishness. Suddenly, she had to be included in Daniel’s dangerous hunts for answers and she used emotional blackmail to have her way. It was either ‘let me be a human shield (against bruiser thugs with knives and guns who travel in packs) or you don’t trust me and I can’t marry you’.
Okay, that is out of my system now. I don’t want it to seem that I can’t accept characters who display flaws and must grow, but I guess it just felt contrived after what I saw in her before that. I loved Julia with no reservations until then and I really liked this couple together. Their romance and Daniel’s seduction of Julia once he was trying to persuade her to marry him was fun and spicy. The plot kept my attention even with the mystery solved early on so I can definitely see myself reading more from this author. I can recommend this one for those who enjoy their historical romances light on the history and their romances with a pinch of spice.
My thanks to Net Galley and Penguin group for the opportunity to read and review this book.