I was hooked in by the blurb and the promise of a new series by an author I enjoy reading. And the title, how could I resist a duke’s disaster?
Actually, it was a near thing because this duke and his ‘disaster’ had some iffy moments at the beginning (I shouldn’t have doubted. Any book that wins the TBR Pile vote has been excellent. Thanks, guys!), but I stuck with it and was so glad I did. This is a poignant story with some deeper issues and twists than could be seen from the start. From a marriage of convenience grew a passionate love and I was glad to get the chance to read about it.
The book opens with Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, making an offer to the companion of the young lady he had been courting. Noah made a promise that by a certain age; he would wed and secure the family line. That birthday is fast approaching and the Season is nearly over with no prospects save the possibility of Lady Thea Collins. She is a lady of excellent family, but her family has fallen on hard times with the death of her parents and her brother a wastrel. He has observed her closely and feels they would suit better than any other female he has seen. He isn’t looking for love and doesn’t even feel he is capable of it. He has the wild, rakish Winters’ blood in him. He is trying to live down the reputation of his family for dangling after women and has no desire for passion and love particularly in a wife.
Thea is startled by Anselm’s calculated proposal. He lists out the pros for both of them and makes it clear about his expectations. The duke is not known for a warm-hearted happy nature, but he is not mean and he handles the care of his family and his business, well. The majority of society would pounce on such an offer, but Thea hesitates. Then she realizes the good she can do for her youngest sister on the cusp of entering society and also securing her own future. But Thea has a dark secret and fears the duke would call off in a heartbeat if he knew. She knows she must tell him, but how can she?
As this unlikely pair come together, Thea’s secret threatens to destroy any chance of a successful marriage. Then there are the menacing others who hate Noah and Thea and would do anything to crush them. Noah and Thea must work hard to make things work and somewhere along the way, feelings start to be involved.
Let me say, that I ended up really engaging with this story. It will probably be one of my favorites by this author. However, for the first several pages, I was considering setting it aside. I didn’t immediately take to either hero or heroine. There were assumptions and misunderstandings.
The dialogue felt sniping to me and I don’t care for that. But then, I had one of those light bulb moments and instead saw the humor and that they were being sarcastic, but not cruel. Noah was cruel at first and seemingly hypocritical, but I soon realized that he was lashing out of hurt and as a reader, I saw what Thea did not. She jumped to conclusions about Noah and he let her so he wasn’t really a hypocrite so much as a stubborn male. When things felt dire, he was smart enough to go to a close friend for advice and he took it to heart for the most part. That was when I started respecting Noah. He even learned to apologize. Gasp, I know.
So this story was a marriage of convenience trope with the added issue of Thea’s secret burden that tainted the whole thing. The author didn’t sugar-coat things. They started as near strangers who weren’t even that friendly and the author developed and teased out slowly a carefully built relationship and romance. I had no trouble buying into the difficulties and slowly gained little victories as the marriage for convenience became more.
The author also wrote these people as a product of their times. The reader has to be careful not to superimpose modern thinking onto the story. Noah handles things like a man of that time just as Thea, though having a strong personality, still thinks like a woman of the era. Her secret has far-reaching consequences for everyone involved with her which is why people react so strongly when they learn it. This is important because her secret
is pretty much the huge cause of conflict from the outside and the inside of their marriage.
The author presented a large cast of characters and I enjoyed all the various interactions of family and friends even enemy moments. Thea and Noah have a lot of time in every day scenes alone and scenes they share with extended family. There is humor and heartwarming moments laced through the romance and the heated passion. Though everything else may be messed up, Noah and Thea have great chemistry and it is the single thread their marriage dangles on at times.
So, in the end, I am so glad that I stuck with this one. It ended up being a fantastic read for me and I can heartily recommend it to historical romance lovers who particularly enjoy the marriage of convenience trope.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #21 HR
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