Lady Amelia is fed up with being a proper lady and wishes to explore London, so one night she escapes . . . and finds herself in the company of one Alistair Finlay-Jones. He’s been ordered by his uncle to wed one of the American girls. How lucky, then, that one of them stumbles right into his arms!
Alistair and Amelia have one perfect day to explore London, from Astley’s Amphitheater to Vauxhall Gardens. Inevitably they end up falling in love and making love. If anyone finds out, she will be ruined, but he will win everything he’s ever wanted.
When Amelia finds out Alistair has been ordered to marry her, he must woo her and win back the angry American girl. But with the threat of scandals, plural, looming . . . will he ever catch up to the woman he loves?
The duchess beamed at her charges, as if they hadn’t been foiling her every effort to marry them off. Amelia began to dread meeting “someone special.”
“I say, Duke,” Lord Nonesuch or whatever began, “do you have an opinion on any of the horses running Ascot?”
The lords always asked James for his opinion on which horse would win a race, so they might win a wager. And then they turned around and made snide remarks about his experience raising and training horses—as if he were beneath them because of this knowledge. Even though he now outranked them.
“I do,” James said, smiling easily.
“Don’t suppose you’d tell a friend who you think will be the winner?” Lord Nansen or Nancy said jovially, with a wink and a nudge.
“I might,” James replied.
This was a conversation he’d had before and Amelia had begged him to do something nefarious, like deliberately suggest a losing horse. But James refused and just smiled like he knew the winner and never said a word.
“I suppose you’re going to build up Durham’s stables,” his lordship said.
“Nansen, he doesn’t have time for horses,” his wife said in that exasperated way of wives. “He must find a bride first.”
The duchess beamed, an I-told-you-so smile.
Then Lady Nansen turned and fixed her attentions on Amelia. Her fan was beating at a furious pace.
“And Lady Amelia, have you found any suitors you care for?”
“After having met nearly all of England’s finest young gentlemen, I can honestly say that no, I have not found any suitors that I could care for,” Amelia said. “But I do have a new appreciation for spinsterhood. In fact, I think it sounds like just the thing.”
Just the thing was a bit of slang she had picked up. Sticking forks in her eye was just the thing (but only with the good silver!). Flustering old matrons with an honest and direct statement was just the thing.
Lady Nansen stared at her a moment, blinking rapidly as she tried to process what Amelia had just said.
“Well your sister seems to have snared the attentions of Darcy’s younger brother,” she said, evidently disregarding Amelia and focusing on Bridget, the one who cared about fitting in and finding suitors.
“Are Lord Darcy and Mr. Wright here tonight?” Bridge asked eagerly. Too eagerly. “I haven’t seen them.”
“It’s not a party without Darcy,” Amelia quipped.
Darcy spent the majority of every social engagement standing against the wall, glowering at the company, refusing to dance, and begging the question of why he even bothered to attend.
But that was neither here nor there and no one deigned to reply to Amelia, so she sighed and lamented her choice in footwear quietly to herself. When Lord and Lady Nansen took their leave and sauntered off, the duchess turned and fixed her cool, blue eyes on Amelia.
“You might endeavor to be a touch more gracious, Lady Amelia.”
The Duchess always said everything in perfectly worded, excruciatingly polite phrases. Translation: Lord above, Amelia, stop acting like a brat.
“I’m just . . . bored.”
And homesick. And unhappy. And dreading the future you have planned for me. And a dozen other feelings one does not mention when one is at a ball.
“Bored?” The duchess arched her brows. “How on earth can you be bored by all this?” She waved her hand elegantly, to indicate everything surrounding them. “Is all the splendor, music, and the company of the best families in the best country not enough for you? I cannot imagine that you had such elegance and luxuries in the provinces.”
Everyone here still referred to her home country as the provinces, or the colonies, or as the remote American backwater plagued by heathens, when Amelia knew that it was a beautiful country full of forthright, spirited people.
It was her true home.
They operated under the impression that there was no greater fun to be had than getting overdressed and gossiping with the same old people each night, in crowded ballrooms in a crowded city.
She missed summer nights back home on their farm in Maryland, when she would slip outside at night with a blanket, to look up at the vast, endless expanse of stars.
This, no matter what the duchess said, just did not compare.
“We already met half these people at the six other balls we have attended this week,” she said. “The other half are crashing bores.”
Crashing bores was a phrase Amelia had read in the gossip columns. The violence of it appealed to her.
“I suppose it would be too much to ask you to pretend to act like an interested and engaging young lady.” Then, turning to Lady Bridget, the duchess said, “I daresay she couldn’t.”
With that, the duchess turned away.
She turned away, leaving the words hanging in the air, floating to the ground, just waiting for Amelia to pounce on them.
“Well that was a challenge,” Claire said.
“I’m not certain she could manage it.” Bridget sniffed.
“Is that a dare?” Amelia asked, straightening up. Oh, she would pretend all right. She would pretend so well they’d all be shocked. It would give her something to do at least. “Because I will take that dare.”
“I’d like to see you try,” Bridget replied. Then, muttering under her breath she added, “For once.”
Amelia reddened. Admittedly she hadn’t been taking this whole sister-of-the-duke business seriously. But she would show them. So instead of sticking her tongue out and scowling at Bridget, Amelia stuck her nose right up in the air and turned away.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, July 2016
Time and Setting: London, 1824
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
This novel has the usual sparkling wit, tongue-in-cheek humor, and capital letters for dramatizing amusing situations that have become Maya Rodale’s signature stamp on historical romance. If you’re a historical romance purist, however, her liberties with language may be off putting. But if you want to laugh out loud, then she’s the writer for you! I personally am impressed and pleased when an author can make me genuinely laugh but not when it’s trying too hard, and Ms. Rodale succeeds with me.
The trope of the one-day love story is used well here, however unrealistic it may be. Shana Galen did it in The Rogue You Know and Jennifer McQuiston in What Happens in Scotland, for example. And it’s a challenge to write enough action, movement in plot, and emotional depth to convince the reader without boring them to death with too much detail, but Ms. Rodale does it astutely.
Amelia Cavendish is the stereotypical American in England, with her wild and carefree ways, her impatience, and her intolerance for conforming to society’s high standards as befits the sister of a duke. Imagine, however, how homesick she must be. To go from the rural freedom of Maryland, where she could ride astride, traipse around barefoot, and speak her mind, to being molded into the perfect aristocratic debutante has to be a shock. She retains her spirit and bravely (or recklessly?) pursues her dreams with abandon. In one incident, she removes her very uncomfortable shoes at a ball, not thinking she will be asked to dance, and she throws a fit after the ball as she loses her temper among the solitude of her close family.
Alistair Finlay-Jones — I love these hyphenated British surnames, they add a little class and wit to mock the stiff upper lip English ways — is the quintessential nice guy who, incorrectly, is described as a rake. A rake is defined as “a dissolute person” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, which Alastair is not. He’s actually a very lonely and bored heir to a baronetcy who longs for an intimate family life and the acceptance he has never had. He also wants to get back into good graces with his stern uncle, his only family, and the man who took him in when he was eight. In Amelia, he sees his golden opportunity to win a beautiful wife as well as join her close and loving family.
But, of course, there has to be a snag. Through his uncle, who has summoned him home from his extended six year Grand Tour, he learns he is commanded to woo and marry Amelia Cavendish. She and her family are not quite the thing (at least not yet), so his uncle thinks Alistair should strike before the iron gets hot. Too much of a coincidence? Perhaps, but in Ms. Rodale’s skillful hands, it’s done beautifully.
The one improbability I have with this story is that I don’t really comprehend what the big deal is as far as the obstacle to Amelia and Alistair’s happily ever after. The coincidence that she’s the woman his uncle has determined him to marry when he happens to find her stumbling around London one late night, unchaperoned, in a laudanum-induced stupor is just too good to be true. He’s wracked with guilt over not telling her the truth when he sees his chance to woo her while they’re having the time of their lives enjoying the sights of London. It makes some appearances and intrudes on his consciousness during their enjoyable day together, but he pushes it away just as quickly as it appears. He’s falling in love with her spirit and smile. And feeling more and more guilty as the day goes on.
As in the first book in the series, Lady Bridget’s Diary, this series makes several references to Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. The dull and officious cousin Mr. Collins is back as well as the imperious Mr. Darcy who saves the day — as he did poor Lydia in Austen’s novel.
The family dynamics of the Cavendish siblings are nicely depicted and Ms. Rodale portrays this vividly, even giving the very proper Duchess — the Cavendish sibling’s sponsor into ton society — a heart. The romance between Amelia and Alistair is sweet and they are very young and idealistic; their story seems almost adolescent to this forty-something reader. Because, of course, really, can you recognize the love of your life in one day?
Ms. Rodale writes with heart and humor that is intended to make the reader laugh, and she succeeds. Yes, you may have to suspend some disbelief as this is not intended to be a serious historical romance in the least but, rather, a perfect lighthearted beach read. I look forward to the last book in the series (the intellectual Claire’s story) next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence and it wasn’t long before she was writing her own. Maya is now the author of multiple Regency historical romances. She lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.