A bargain born of desperation ignites into passion as one lord’s quest to save his family leads to the discovery that he can never settle for less than love.
Forsaken, abandoned, and duped, Miss Jemma Adair has no other recourse but to request her grandfather’s help to avoid living on the streets. His asking price? She must marry a neighboring lord’s odious son. Thankfully, there is a way out of her dilemma—ensuring the rake never asks for her hand. But what is Jemma to do when her ally is an all-too handsome silver-tongued lord with a penchant for poetry that makes her question giving her heart to another man?
Philip De Vere, Lord Harthorne, wishes to marry for love, but inherited debt and family obligations force him to seek a wealthy wife. Yet experience has taught him that ladies of the ton prefer rogues to gentlemen with a poet’s soul. But when an unrepentant hoyden claims to know a thing or two about how to make a man a rake, Philip finds he cannot resist Jemma’s offer or her.
Publisher and Release Date: Night Shift Publishing, August 2015
Time and Setting: London, 1821
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Sara
There are certain kinds of romantic storylines that just call to me as a reader, with Friends-to-Lovers being almost at the top of that list. There is just something about two characters slowly awakening to feelings they have been either suppressing or were unaware of even while they are close to one another. In My Enchanting Hoyden, author Julie Johnstone has set-up a wonderful example of how men and women can have that friendship and through their circumstances allow it to become something more.
Jemma Adair is far from living the American dream, barely making ends meet while running her family’s bakery in New York City. With a twin sister and sickly mother to support, Jemma takes charge of her family responsibilities but quietly dreams of the day she might start a family of her own with the young man she has given her heart to. Sadly, Jemma’s dreams are dashed in one horrible day when her beloved mother succumbs to her illness and her beau reveals he has promised himself to a rich noblewoman from England. With creditors at the door and no real means to support her sister, Jemma reaches out to her estranged grandfather the Duke of Rowan; the man her mother blamed for their exile to America.
Growing up with stories of her grandfather’s cruelty and indifference to his own daughter has left Jemma with a very poor idea of what kind of family she can expect across the ocean. Her trust in men had already been skewed by her own father abandoning his family as well as the shocking betrayal by her suitor, so when the duke arrives to bring Jemma and her sister back to England with him she doesn’t believe for one moment his motives are altruistic. She is further dismayed to learn that the duke has already lined up a suitor for her as long as she can make a proper début into London society. Unwilling to let her life be dictated by a guardian she does not love or trust, Jemma openly flaunts the rules for a proper young woman and plays up the idea that she is terrible hoyden and thus unfit to make any kind of début. When her unwanted suitor returns to town she increases her efforts to make herself unmarriageable without completely bringing shame down on her sister.
Phillip De Vere has spoken to Jemma while in the company of friends but has never allowed himself to get closer to the attractive American who inspires him to compose sonnets about the color of her eyes. His family responsibilities are too great for him to take time for himself or anything that could develop between them. With a crushing debt left to him by his father, Phillip has spent the last few years trying to pull his accounts out of the red while keeping his mother furnished in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed. Another poor harvest on the horizon resigns Phillip to the idea that he must put aside his own dream of a love match and marry a woman with a substantial dowry. Having no idea which of the current crop of young ladies might be suitable, and having watched his younger sister and her friend fall in love with his rakish best friends, Phillip gets the unbelievable notion of attracting a fiancée by playing the part of a rake in society.
A chance meeting with Jemma at the duchess’s home opens a conversation about how Jemma hopes to avoid marriage while Phillip has to actively seek a bride. Phillip reveals his plan to play the rake during the season and Jemma offers a friendly bargain whereby she will instruct him on how he can be more rakish while he will tell her exactly how to dissuade her suitor from pursing her. With their plan firmly in place and used as an excuse for them to spend more time in one another’s company it isn’t long before the latent attraction between them begins to complicate matters and slowly reveal the true direction of their feelings and innermost selves.
The roles of the main characters in this story seem like they have been flip-flopped from your standard romantic set-up. Jemma is the jaded one set against love, while Phillip believes in love but feels barred by his circumstances from ever experiencing it. I liked this change of personalities because it allowed both characters to have real moments of introspection as the relationship developed between them. Jemma’s attitude towards men is so ingrained into her make-up that she needs to be paired with someone who is so open about his feelings and is a truly good person. If she had been set-up with the standard regency rake (heart of gold under layers of cynicism) they would have been butting heads to the point where no reader would believe in their happy ending.
Phillip rather snuck up on me as a true hero. He has been the perfect sidekick throughout this series, being a good supportive friend to both previous heroes and their voice of reason when they had moments of crisis. In these stories he was the typical nice guy who didn’t seem to have any darkness or weight to his character. In his own story, Ms. Johnstone found a way for me to not only appreciate just how honorable a man he is but to fall in love a little with him myself. I absolutely adored all of the little things Phillip does for Jemma while just being her friend. He quietly accepts her acts of rebellion and her forthright demeanor as parts of her personality. As his feelings of friendship towards her grow into more it’s wonderful to see Phillip realize just how important love is to him – just as important as his duty and honor.
There were not too many callbacks to the previous two books in the series, so My Enchanting Hoyden would be a perfect standalone title and perhaps a good introduction to Julie Johnstone’s writing. The language is not overly formal and the situations the characters find themselves in are relatable. With the introduction of Jemma’s sister Anne into the storyline, I can only hope a future book will give readers another peak at these enjoyable characters.