It’s a dog’s life…
Will Dorning, as an earl’s spare, has accepted the thankless duty of managing his rambunctious younger siblings, though Will’s only true companions are the dogs he’s treasured since boyhood. When aristocratic London is plagued with a series of dognappings, Will’s brothers are convinced that he’s the only person who can save the stolen canines from an awful fate.
But the lady’s choice…
Shy, bookish Lady Susannah Haddonfield has no patience with loud, smelly beasts of any species, but must appear to like dogs so as not to offend her sister’s only marital prospect. Susannah turns to Will, an acquaintance from her most awkward adolescent years, to teach her how to impersonate a dog fancier. Will has long admired Susannah, though he lacks the means to offer for her, and yet as they work together to rescue the purloined pets, it’s loyal, dashing Will who steals Susannah’s heart.
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, February 2016
Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Lady Wesley
I love Grace Burrowes’ historical romances and have read almost all of them. Over the years I have noticed that her heroes – besides being handsome, charming, and lovable – are decidedly devoted to their horses. The author obviously loves horses and it shows. She clearly loves and understands dogs as well, and her affection for them is evident throughout Will’s True Wish. Several dogs play featured roles in the story, and each of their personalities comes through as clearly as those of the human characters.
Our heroine is Lady Susannah Haddonfield, one of the sisters of Nicholas, the Earl of Bellfonte. Susannah is in London for the season to chaperone her younger sister, Della. Seven years ago, during Susannah’s début season, she was the victim of unfounded rumors and nasty tricks perpetrated by two mean sisters who pretended to be her friends. Our hero, Will Dorning, was kind to Susanna then, and ever since, she has secretly felt a tendre for him. Although Will was attracted to Susannah, he was the second son of a purse-pinched earl and not looking for a wife, so their friendship never blossomed into anything serious. Susannah is now resigned to being on the shelf, but is determined that her sister will not be the subject of gossip. There is some reason for her concern, given that Della, who is small and dark, looks nothing like her tall, blond Haddonfield siblings.
Will is dedicated to taking care of his family – older brother Grey, the Earl of Casriel, and their rowdy younger brothers Cam and Ash. (As you will see – and for reasons not explained – the brothers are named for trees – Grey Birch, Willow, Sycamore, and Ash. Their sister is Jacaranda, after the fragrant, blooming sub-tropical tree. Brothers Valerian and Hawthorne are mentioned but do not appear in the narrative.) Will has forged the beginnings of a career training herding and working dogs; he is a sort of dog whisperer to the ton and is particularly devoted to his own dog, a gentle giant of a mastiff named Georgette.
One day as Cam is walking Georgette in the park, the usually well-behaved dog becomes over-excited and relieves herself on Lady Susannah’s parasol. Actually, Georgette may have been aiming at the knee of Viscount Effington, who raised the unfurled parasol to strike at the dog. This is just the first instance of a dog knowing people better than other people do. Effington is a nasty piece of work, but he is courting Della and Susannah is encouraging the match. He constantly carries around a spoiled little pug named Yorrick, which doesn’t bother Della, but Susannah really doesn’t like dogs at all. When Will comes to call on the Haddonfield sisters with a replacement parasol, Susannah asks him to help her overcome her aversion to dogs. Her motivation is a bit of a stretch for this reader: she is worried that Effington will be offended and hold it against Della if her realizes that her sister is not a dog lover.
So begins Will and Susannah’s reintroduction to one another, and Grace Burrowes has written a lovely story of two mature people falling in love and having to face the very real obstacles that confront them. Will simply does not have the income to support a wife, and he also feels obligated to continue helping his older brother corral their younger siblings. I love the way that Will and Susannah discuss these issues directly and without any Big Misunderstanding. Susannah is a wonderful heroine – strong and assertive without being hoydenish.
While the romance grows, very strange things are happening. It appears that Della is somehow blackmailing the Duke of Quimby’s young, handsome heir, Jonathan Tresham. The evil Effington, who is secretly broke, is forcing his friend Fenwick to spread nasty rumors about Della, thinking that her ruin will garner him a larger dowry. And we learn of a series of dog-nappings involving the pets of wealthy families. At Susannah’s insistence Will becomes involved in trying to find the culprits and of course, she becomes involved in the adventure as well.
Somehow, Grace Burrowes keeps all of these balls in their air and produces a happy ending for everyone, including all of the dogs. Will’s True Wish is a sweet story full of romance, adventure – and dogs – and I recommend it both to lovers of canines and fans of Burrowes’ marvelous story-telling talent.