Purchase Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * B & N * ~ * ~ * Google Play * ~ * ~ * iTunes * ~ * ~ * Kobo
Every debutante aspires to snag a duke. Elin Morris just happens to have had one reserved since birth. But postponements of her marriage to London’s most powerful peer give Elin time to wonder how she will marry Gavin Baynton when she cannot forget his brother, Benedict.
Already exasperated at being yanked from the military to meet “family obligations,” now Ben must suffer watching his arrogant sibling squire the only woman he has ever loved. Joining the army saved Ben from sinking into bitterness, but seeing Elin again takes him back to the day they surrendered to their intoxicating desire.
As the wedding draws near, Elin tries to push Ben far from her thoughts. When danger brings them together, there is no denying their feelings. But can Elin choose love over duty…?
All of London, even down to the riffraff, already knew what the ball’s special announcement would be. There was no mystery, although the dowager Duchess of Baynton’s guests would feign surprise when the moment for the announcement arrived.
They called it the Match of the Century.
Her son, the duke of Baynton, London’s richest and unarguably most handsome gentleman, would announce his betrothal to the Miss Elin Morris, also known as Morris Heiress, thereby uniting two great fortunes and two magnificent adjoining country estates in Leicestershire along the River Trent.
And the reason everyone anticipated the “announcement” was because it was a well-known fact that Elin had been promised to the duke almost since the day of her birth. Yes, she had been presented at Court and had gone through the motions of a First Season but it had all been just a formality, a “show.” The duke was hers. She had Baynton, the epitome of a lordly lord, the Nonpareil.
“And I am not worthy of him,” Elin whispered, stopping the furious pacing she’d been at for the last ten minutes in an attempt to settle anxious nerves and a confused mind.
Her bedroom in her parent’s London house was fit for a princess. The India carpet in hues of blue was thick and soft beneath her stockinged feet. Her furniture was gilded in the opulent manner her parents preferred.
Back in Heartwood, the Morris family estate, which adjoined the Baynton’s family seat, the furniture in her room was simple and to her tastes. Here, her parents ruled. They were London creatures, darlings of society.
And Elin? Well, their only child preferred the quieter life at Heartwood. Of course, all that would change when she became Baynton’s duchess. He was too important to have his wife rusticate in the country.
She caught a glimpse of herself in her dressing table mirror, a lone figure in finely woven petticoats, her face pale beneath a mop of over-curly brown hair. Her dark eyes reflected her agitation. They threatened to swallow her face.
“It’s not that I don’t want Baynton,” she attempted to explain to her image. “It is that I shouldn’t have him. Not without telling him–”
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, December 2015
Time and Setting: 1809-1811
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Benedict (Ben) Whitridge and Elin Morris have been best friends since childhood and their families are neighbors. They gave each other their hearts as well as their virginity but then Ben disappeared without a word, for eight long years, breaking Elin’s heart.
Ben is the younger brother of Gavin, the Duke of Baynton. Elin has always been promised to Gavin and is to finally marry him when Ben suddenly reappears, recalled from the military by Gavin to fulfill his duties to the dukedom. Ben is Gavin’s heir, and he must be kept safe in case anything happens to Gavin, so that he can carry out the responsibilities of the title, something Gavin takes very seriously and Ben does not.
Ben was rather a lost soul when he was sent away after he and Elin spent the night together. But he thrived in the army, and he no longer feels a duty to anyone, least of all to the brother who has taken not only his career from him, but also his first and only love. When he returns, he has to prove himself worthy of Elin and show he can provide for her. The scene where his mother speaks to Ben of his pursuit of Elin in the face of Gavin’s betrothal is moving and compelling.
Elin is a little one-dimensional and is a sort of wishy-washy person who only seems to want Ben again when he re-enters the picture. She realizes that Gavin is a nice man, an honorable and handsome man, even if his ducal responsibilities will not give her much of his attention. She wants to obey her father’s wishes and is content to go along with the marriage.
Yet even when she and Ben are intimate again, it’s not very exciting. The romance between Elin and Ben is rather tepid and I really feel this is more the story of the relationship of two brothers. This part of the story is very well written and interesting; the romance, not so much.
The families of both Elin and Ben are very close. Ben’s brother is a duke but Elin’s family is very well off financially. Ben’s mother, Marcella, a widow, and Elin’s father, Fyclan, a widower, also share a companionable friendship – perhaps more?- so the whole book really feels more like the story of one big family rather than two people finding true love.
I really liked Gavin, though Ms. Maxwell seems to want to paint him a bit dull when he’s not. He’s kind, honorable, commanding and, perhaps duty-driven, but then again it has been his entire upbringing. Yet he, too, wants the deep love that Ben seems to share with Elin and won’t settle for anything less. His story is previewed at the end and I like this quote as Gavin tries to explain his duty to his title to Ben, something that Ben does not understand.
“That’s the way matters work, Ben. I didn’t create the world. I just happen to be very good at operating in it.”
Unfortunately, there is a rather weak subplot in which someone is threatening to murder Elin, but this just seems to be a way to conveniently put Ben in Elin’s path. The villain is easily identified and this plotline seems convoluted and melodramatic.
So I would say this is more a novel of manners than a true historical romance. There is also mention of another brother, Gavin’s twin, Jack, who mysteriously disappeared and whose happy ending will be told in the second instalment in Cathy Maxwell’s new Marrying the Duke series.
But Ms. Maxwell, an accomplished and prolific author, writes well, her pacing moves along at a steady and consistent pace, and most of the characters are likeable and engaging. She meshes history well into the narrative with Ben’s military career, Gavin’s responsibilities and influence, and Ben’s new career with the War Office. I have very much enjoyed her previous works, but this one just fell a little flat for me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times Bestselling Author, Cathy Maxwell spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, “Why do people fall in love?” It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with children, horses, dogs, and cats.