Pretty, petite Evie Windham has been more indiscreet than her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Moreland, suspect. Fearing that a wedding night would reveal her past, she’s running out of excuses to dodge adoring swains. Lucas Denning, the newly titled Marquis of Deene, has reason of his own for avoiding marriage. So Evie and Deene strike a deal, each agreeing to be the other’s decoy. At this rate, matrimony could be avoided indefinitely…until the two are caught in a steamy kiss that no one was supposed to see.
Heat Level 2
REVIEW RATING: 4.5 STARS
Review by Caz
This is the seventh book in the Windham series, and another very enjoyable read from Grace Burrowes.
The story centres around the Duke and Duchess of Moreland’s youngest child, Lady Eve who, since having a serious riding accident seven years earlier, has cut herself off emotionally from her family and from the world in general. She isn’t a recluse, she has simply lost her former joie de vivre; she continues to attend society events, make calls and do all the things expected of the daughter of a duke, but she is just going through the motions.
Her parents and siblings are all aware of the differences in Eve, but none of them knows what to do to help her; especially as Eve does not admit that there is anything wrong. In this day and age, when we are familiar with the concept of counselling, it seems strange that Eve is allowed to continue in this vein for seven years without anyone trying to do anything to help – but this is the early nineteenth century, and there is also the sense that her parents and siblings don’t want to interfere for fear of making things worse.
There is one person who starts to get through to her however, and that is Lucas Denning, newly-minted Marquis of Deene, who is a long-standing family friend and neighbour. He and Eve have rather an abrasive relationship to start with – they seem to like to annoy and argue with each other – but Deene is incredibly perceptive about Eve’s needs and is able to discern when she needs space and time to come to terms with things and when she needs pushing.
While being attentive to Eve, Deene is also struggling to come to terms with the workings of his estates and his finances, all of which have been under the stewardship of his cousin for a number of years. His cousin is strangely reluctant to hand over the reins; Deene’s preoccupation with his preparation for a custody battle over his dead sister’s child at first prevents him from being suspicious, but he eventually begins to smell a rat and enlists the help of Joseph Carrington, (Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight (The Duke’s Daughters, #3)) to discover exactly what is going on.
One of the things I enjoy very much about Burrowes’ writing is the way she allows the relationships between her protagonists to develop over time. In the books of hers I’ve read so far, the hero and heroine haven’t acted hastily on their attraction to each other and in fact develop a friendship before anything further happens between them. That is the case here, too, although there are quite a few stolen kisses in the first part. Eve is actually set on a “white” marriage (i.e, one in name only) but doesn’t tell anyone exactly why – and when she and Deene are caught in a compromising situation she is adamant that she doesn’t want to marry him, despite the fact that she is more than half in love with him. She is eventually forced to capitulate (as the alternative would be her father and/or brothers calling Deene out!) and despite her fears, their marriage begins well and Eve is happy for the first time in years.
Of course, this state of affairs can’t last – and Eve’s jumping to rather an illogical conclusion is perhaps somewhat convenient for the sake of the plot. It is just about plausible, considering her previous insecurities and fears, but the way their marriage hits the rocks because of it doesn’t quite work for me.
Burrowes’ writing is, as always, a joy and her depiction of the familial relationships is excellent. The relationship between Eve and Deene is affectionate and very tender and I thought the way in which Eve gradually opens up and starts to ‘find’ her true self again – through Deene’s patience and understanding – was very well done indeed.
If, like me, you like a good, character-driven romance, then this is definitely a book to add to your TBR list!
With thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the review copy.
I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too.