This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I read my first book by this author just last year and definitely wanted to read more so I was pleased to snag this one. While this book had different elements and went a different direction, I found it easy to engage with the story. I liked how the book began with a young woman’s mistake and followed along as events took their course to her again faced with a choice and seeing how she faced it this time.
The story begins with Sophie Dupont, daughter to a successful portrait painter, caught in a bad situation. The man she loves and thought was going to propose marriage has left her behind to pursue his art. Her mistake has consequences and she is pregnant. And there offering her rescue is her lover artist’s younger brother. Where Wesley is fair, pleasing, and handsome in his ways, this tall, stern-expressioned dark stranger is his opposite. He is a soldier and his volatile nature unsettles her, but it is either take Captain Stephen Overtree’s offer of marriage of convenience or lose her reputation and destroy any chance of a respectable reputation of her unborn child. By taking the Captain, she will be forced to give up on Wesley. But as she spends time in Captain Stephen Overtree’s company and care, she begins to compare the two brothers and which one has stood steadily beside her and did his best to place her first even if he is reserved and quiet and never promised her love.
Stephen has come searching out his older brother to bring him back to the family estate to take up his neglected responsibility as heir and help their ailing father since Stephen has to return to his regiment and can no longer shoulder Wesley’s responsibility. Except when he tracks Wesley to beautiful Devon, he finds that once again he is left to clean up one of Wesley’s messes and shoulder responsibility. Stephen makes the offer that his brother should have made to the woman who fell for his fickle brother’s charms and he must hide from her that while she pines for Wesley that Stephen has held her miniature portrait close to him for over a year and dreamed about the woman his brother used as a model. He is a soldier and believes that he is fated to die so he is at peace with his maker and content to have rescued Sophie. He tries to not wish for more than she can ever give him.
This was a story that I struggled with in the beginning. I wasn’t really fond of Sophie. She messed up and really has no choice, but she chose to act like Stephen was the bad guy when he was really her hero. Eventually, she gets a clue about how selfish and self-absorbed she is being and that helped me enjoy the story more. There is a strong religious thematic element running through it so this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it a sweet, heartwarming story. There is internal and external conflict. Even a love triangle which I usually detest, but didn’t mind in this one. It is a slow build and slow burn that has some good foreshadowing and hints to keep it from dragging as it sets up for the more intense and faster-paced ending.
The characters are interesting. Stephen is very religious, but not in a sanctimonious way. He lives what he believes even if he isn’t as easy on the eye or as silver-tongued as his brother. No, he isn’t perfect, but he does try to do the right thing. He has the struggle of duty and honor before what he would prefer and being attracted to a woman who prefers his brother. His parents even favor his brother falling for his charms though his old nurse and grandfather do not because they see through Wesley. His brother disappoints him often, but he also loves him. There is a bit of Cain and Abel thing going on mostly on Wesley’s end.
Sophie isn’t religious, but she was naive and had romantic notions in the beginning. She saw the glamour of Wesley and heard his beautiful words with no real substance. Felt the connection of their mutual love of art. She hasn’t had an easy life after losing her mother, having her artistic work under-appreciated and downplayed, and being stuck with a mean step-mother and a sneaky, greedy man who is her father’s apprentice. It was easy to see how she fell for Wesley. I enjoyed following along as she slowly learned to appreciate her husband, Stephen. The author didn’t make it quick and easy which I appreciated. Sophie’s feelings had to change as she learned the difference between flash and substance.
The story also included some mild suspense with a mystery in the Overtree family home and there was the nail-biting situation when Stephen was called back to war and fought in the final defeat of Napoleon that resulted in a large loss of life leaving the family wondering if Stephen was one of these even while Wesley has returned and left Sophie with the angst-wrought dilemma of choosing between the brothers.
On a side note, the attention to historic detail and the fun nods toward Jane Austen were added enjoyment. A woman artist and the time period of England at war were strong and engaging elements.
In summary, it started shaky, but then grabbed my attention. Loved the flawed characters and the well-developed romance and story. I said it before, but I like the author’s writing style and plan to hit her backlist and continue with her new releases. I would recommend this one for those who enjoy inspirational sweet historical romance.
My thanks to Bethany House Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #75 HR
Literary Pickers #73 Arranged Marriage
Mt. TBR #35
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