Everyone knows Helene Fitzgerald will never marry. She and her wallflower friends may be on the rise socially, but Helene is still nothing but a sharp-tongued bluestocking who very publicly renounced her only marriage offer. Worse, her family is in serious financial trouble. So, how is Helene suddenly attracting the eye of Marcus Endicott, the Duke of Windford and one of England’s most eligible aristocrats?
Trapped by his father’s long legacy of mistakes, Marcus never thought he’d find a woman he’d want enough to risk his heart. But what began as a contentious friendship has transformed into a passion beyond anything he dreamed possible. Now, Marcus’s old secrets are threatening to destroy everything Helene and her friends have worked for. Can any passion be strong enough to carry Helene and Marcus away from their pasts?
Publisher and Release Date: Intermix, May 2016
Time and Setting: London, 1817
Genre: Historical romance novella
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
This the final novella in Darcie Wilde’s Regency Makeover series and features the most admirable of all the heroines. Three debutante wallflowers seek acceptance in London high society by re-making themselves both socially as well as fashionably. Along the way, Adele, Madeline, and Helene become good friends and make love matches all under the sponsorship and limited supervision of Deborah Sewell, a lady novelist with a mysterious air who lives alone. The first two novellas had open-ended conclusions that read like serials while this one ties up all the loose ends.
Helene Fitzgerald is the strongest of the three young women. She’s smart, assertive, and has a backbone, yet Ms. Wilde also manages to show her vulnerability. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind or show her intelligence. She publicly broke off a high profile engagement in a scandalous scene that has pretty much blackballed her in the eyes of society. And if that wasn’t enough counting against her, there is also her family’s extremely reduced circumstances.
Ms. Wilde writes well and she pays attention to several historical details; however, the ending is a little too neat and twee. In fact, my only issue with this entire series is the rather caricaturish portrayal of secondary characters who get in the way of the heroines’ success; and in all three circumstances, it’s their families. As a result, the stories sometime come across as overly dramatic and unrealistic. If this doesn’t bother you, you could say they have an almost fairytale-like quality.
Marcus, the Duke of Windford, makes a very worthy hero. He has successfully revived his title and brought it back to sound financial footing as well as rectified the repercussions of his father’s mistakes. But the dukedom is his entire life and all that he knows. Ms. Wilde creates an exciting and well-developed banter between Marcus and Helene that realistically depicts their growing romantic relationship. I especially like how Helene offers up an alternative path for Marcus and challenges him to dare to pursue it.
The secondary storyline about Marcus’ young protégé is a touching subplot that mirrors Marcus’ own self-discovery and purpose. But the conflict that threatens Helene and Marcus’ relationship is a little strained, predictable, and melodramatic.
I have read the entire series and I still think Ms. Wilde should write the story of Deborah Sewell who, in this novella, takes almost a backseat to the forceful and determined Helene. If you like stories about quiet heroines overcoming adversity, you will enjoy this story and this series.