She holds the key to more than a fortune…
There’s more to love than meets the eye…
The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Sophia Russell has no interest in marriage, especially after a recent humiliation—and especially not to Maximilian, Marquess of Devereaux. But it’s the only way to save herself from fortune hunters—and those who wish to seize a powerful connection she prefers to keep secret—even from her future husband…
Marrying Sophia is the only way Max can regain the wealth his father squandered on an extravagant country palace. And while Max and his bride are civil, theirs is clearly a marriage of convenience—until a family enemy takes a questionable interest in Sophia—one that may lead all the way to the throne. Forced to become allies in a battle they hadn’t foreseen, the newlyweds soon grow closer—and discover a love, and a passion, they never expected…
Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, February 2015
Time and Setting: 1750s London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Caz
This is the second book in Ms Connolly’s Emperors of London series set in the Georgian era, in which readers follow the stories of members of a wealthy and influential family whose imperialistic names (Julius, Nicodemus, Alexander, Maximillian etc.) have earned them that particular nickname.
Maximillian Wallace, Marquess of Devereux has spent most of his adult life working to pull his family out of the debt accumulated by his late father and has finally managed to put them back on solid ground thanks to a combination of his business acumen and hard work. He is about to put the finishing touches to a deal with Thomas Russell, one of the shrewdest and wealthiest traders in the City, a deal which will secure his financial security and that of his family for some time to come.
The deal is all but done when Russell puts forward a suggestion that he hopes will sweeten the bargain even further. His daughter Sophia is his only heir and not only will she bring a considerable sum of money to her husband when she marries, but through her, her husband stands to inherit all Russell’s business interests. Added to that, she has a good head for business and would prove an asset in running those interests. Unfortunately, however, Sophia has recently been made the subject of cruel gossip by a young man who sought to force her into marriage, and if Russell doesn’t get her married quickly, the rumours will ruin her prospects entirely.
Max knows what is being offered, and while he doesn’t like the fact that Russell is only too well aware that he’s making an offer Max would be a fool to refuse, he can’t deny that he is very tempted. Sophia hasn’t made much of an impression on him on the few occasions he has seen her, but he quickly decides that a marriage under such circumstances will be as good as any and agrees to marry her.
Sophia, on the other hand, is not at all pleased at being forced into marrying a man she does not love, regardless of the fact that he’s titled and undeniably attractive. But such was a woman’s lot during this period, and she eventually gives in to her father’s rather unpleasant methods of persuasion and the wedding takes place.
Following an unsatisfactory wedding night, during which the intensity of his desire for his new bride took him completely by surprise, Max decides to wait a while before returning to her bed. Realising that spending time with her but not touching her is going to be very difficult, he starts spending more and more time away from home, living more or less the same life he led before his marriage. Max is actually rather pleased with the bargain he has made; Sophia is pretty and intelligent, and he likes her. In his self-satisfaction, however, he fails to see the way Sophia is shunned and sidelined in society when he is not at her side. She is a “cit” (a commoner whose wealth comes from trade) whose name has been linked to scandal, and while Max assures her that being married to one of the Emperors of London will lend her consequence and ensure her acceptance into his world, it takes a stern talking-to from his cousin to make him see that Sophia is not doing so well on her own.
Unfortunately, his neglect of her has left Sophia grateful for the friendship she is offered from another quarter, one her husband is determined she not pursue. The Dankworth family are long-standing enemies of the Emperors, known to be Jacobite sympathisers who will do anything and use anyone in their quest to re-instate a Stuart monarch. When Sophia makes a startling discovery about her parentage, she is unwittingly drawn into a plot that could have far-reaching consequences – consequences that the Dankworths are only too ready to exploit.
The way Ms Connolly depicts the world of Georgian London is impressive. Her descriptions of the fashions, customs and lifestyles of the great and the good are very informative and successfully give the reader a strong sense of time and place. The characters are well-written and Sophia is an engaging heroine, if perhaps a little modern in outlook at times. The sub-plot concerning the machinations of the Dankworths is full of intrigue and I enjoyed the story overall, but the romance is underdeveloped, and that’s where the book falls down for me. Max and Sophia don’t spend a great deal of time together “on the page” getting to know each other after their marriage, and when things between them begin to improve, they seem to go from being distant with each other to being unable to keep their hands off one another in the blink of an eye. There is little or no actual relationship development, which is rather a let-down as I had enjoyed that aspect of the previous book, Rogue in Red Velvet.
In spite of that reservation, however, I did enjoy the story and will certainly be looking out for the next book in the series.