Mini-Reviews: Cheat, Counterfeit, Betrayal

Sarah Adams, The Cheat Sheet

Bree and Nathan have been close friends since high school, and they’ve maintained that friendship even though Bree is now a dance teacher struggling to pay rent, while Nathan is a professional football player. In fact, they’re madly in love with each other, but they’re each convinced the other sees them only as a friend. Then one night, Bree drunkenly reveals her feelings to a reporter, so they agree to a “fake” relationship for the publicity while trying to conceal their very real feelings. I like the friends-to-lovers trope in theory, but this book is classic example of why it doesn’t often work for me in practice. Bree and Nathan have been crazy about each other for years, yet they’ve never been honest with each other about how they feel. I just don’t buy that neither of them ever made a move! I would have liked it more if, say, Nathan really didn’t see Bree as a romantic option at first, but something happened to change his perspective. That said, this book is a cute, fun, not too racy read, and I did enjoy Nathan’s interactions with his friends on the football team, so I’d recommend this one for friends-to-lovers fans.

Louise Allen, The Duke’s Counterfeit Wife

Nicholas Terrell, the duke of Severton, and Sarah Parrish, the daughter of a disgraced shipping company owner, are traveling aboard the same passenger boat when they realize that its captain is up to no good. When the captain threatens to kill them, Nicholas reveals his ducal identity and claims that Sarah is his wife, persuading the captain to hold them for ransom instead. While Nick and Sarah endure their shared captivity and plot their escape, they also fall in love, but their very different social standings impede their romance. I quite enjoyed this historical romance; it’s not too long (less than 300 pages in my e-book version) and has an adventurous plot along with the romance. Nick is my kind of buttoned-up, scowly duke, and he’s well matched in the practical and intelligent Sarah. Based on the reviews I’ve seen, it looks like Allen’s books are hit or miss, but I’d certainly consider trying more by her!

Lauren Willig, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

Penelope Staines has been packed off to India with her husband, Freddy, after their hasty and scandalous marriage. Freddy is to be a special envoy to the court of Hyderabad, which Penelope soon learns is a hotbed of intrigue. Meanwhile, Captain Alex Reid is trying to keep a lid on that intrigue, especially when he learns that a French spy might be undermining the uneasy alliance between Indians and British. As he and Penelope unwillingly team up to unmask the spy, they also fight a mutual attraction, knowing that Penelope’s marriage precludes a relationship between them. This is another enjoyable installment of the Pink Carnation series. Willig was smart to change up the setting and remind readers that the Britain-France conflict had global ramifications. I also really liked Alex, though Penelope’s self-destructive tendencies grated on me a bit. It was hard for me to root for their romance, too, given that it involved marital infidelity. Overall, a good read but not one of my favorites in the series.

Mini-Reviews: Safe, Hero, Willoughby

Ashley Weaver, Playing It Safe

As bombs fall on London in the autumn of 1940, Ellie McDonnell is summoned to the port city of Sunderland by her handler, Major Ramsey. She doesn’t know the details of her mission, but things get complicated fast when a man dies right in front of her the day she arrives. She and Ramsey both suspect the man has been murdered, possibly because of shady spy activities. As Ellie befriends the dead man’s social circle, she uncovers many secrets and endangers her life in the process. I’m continuing to enjoy this series, mainly for the likable main characters and WW2 setting. I wasn’t as compelled by the mystery — the murderer’s identity seems to come out of nowhere — but there are some good suspenseful scenes. I also liked the developments in Ellie’s relationship with Ramsey. This book just came out, but I’m already impatient for the next one!

Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown

Aerin has always felt like an outsider who doesn’t belong. She’s the daughter of the king’s second wife, a reputed witch who supposedly died of disappointment that Aerin wasn’t a boy. She doesn’t have the magical Gift that’s shared by all people of royal blood. Most of her cousins despise her, and she’d rather ride her father’s old warhorse or practice swordplay than be a courtier. But when dragons and demon-magic from the North threaten her kingdom, Aerin discovers she has a crucial role to play. This is a book of my heart; I loved it as a child and am delighted to discover it’s just as good as I remember. Aerin is surprisingly relatable for someone who slays dragons, and Robin McKinley’s writing is pure magic. I’m really happy I revisited this one!

Claudia Gray, The Late Mrs. Willoughby

***Warning: SPOILERS for Sense and Sensibility***

Jonathan Darcy has been invited to Allenham, the estate his old schoolmate John Willoughby has just inherited. Willoughby was a bully during their school days, so Jonathan isn’t particularly excited about the visit — until he meets Juliet Tilney again, who’s staying nearby with her friend Marianne Brandon. He and Juliet are both eager to renew their acquaintance, but things take a dark turn when Willoughby’s wife is murdered. Could Willoughby or Marianne be the culprit? I don’t usually love Austen pastiches, but so far this series has impressed me with its fidelity to Austen’s characters even as it places them within a murder mystery. I was able to identify the murderer pretty early on, but I still enjoyed the plot, and I liked the development of Jonathan and Juliet’s relationship. To get the most out of this book, you definitely have to be familiar with both The Murder of Mr. Wickham and Sense and Sensibility, but if you liked book #1 of the series, you’ll enjoy this one too.

Mini-Reviews: Necessary, Rome, Unknown

Hannah March, A Necessary Evil

In this fifth and final book of the series, Robert Fairfax trades London for Bath, where he’s tutoring a group of pleasant yet unteachable girls. He also becomes acquainted with Colonel James Delabole and his family, which consists of a wife and daughter, as well as a long-lost daughter from his first marriage, with whom Delabole is trying to reconcile. Tensions are high, so when Delabole is murdered, Robert has more than enough suspects to investigate. As with the other books in this series, this one is well-written, with a complex plot, interesting characters, and an evocative setting. However, I don’t think the author planned this to be a series finale, as there’s no resolution to Robert’s personal life. He seems to end in a worse place than he began, which I found disappointing. I do still recommend the series for those who enjoy historical mysteries, but I wish Robert could have found a little happiness in the end.

Sarah Adams, When in Rome

Pop star Amelia Rose is feeling burned out, so she decides to pull an Audrey Hepburn and go on a Roman holiday — to Rome, Kentucky, that is. But when her car breaks down, she’s forced to rely on the surly yet attractive Noah Walker for help. As they get to know each other, they have a hard time fighting their mutual attraction, but Noah’s life is in Rome and Amelia can’t stay forever, so how could they make a relationship work? This is a sweet contemporary romance that I enjoyed, though I sometimes felt the characters blew hot and cold for no reason. It paints an idyllic picture of life in a small town, which makes the book a fun escape even if it’s not particularly realistic. The author just came out with a novel featuring Noah’s younger sister, and I do plan to read it if I can get it from the library.

Georgette Heyer, The Unknown Ajax

When Lord Darracott’s son and heir dies unexpectedly, Darracott shocks his family by announcing that the new heir is a grandson he’s never met, who grew up in Yorkshire and whose mother was a commoner. When the heir, Hugo, arrives at the estate, the family expects an ignorant yokel, so Hugo plays along — but it’s not long before some members of the family, including his cousin Anthea, recognize his intelligence and true worth. I love Georgette Heyer, but I’d only read this novel once, so I was interested to remind myself why it’s not one of my favorites. I think the answer is that the romance, while appealing, takes a backseat to family drama and a smuggling plot. I wanted more of Hugo and Anthea interacting and fewer conversations about the pros and cons of “free trading.” So for me, this is not one of Heyer’s best.

Mini-Reviews: Parfit, Swift, Keeper

Stella Riley, The Parfit Knight

When an attack by highwaymen and a heavy snowfall force the Marquis of Amberley to take refuge in a stranger’s home, he doesn’t expect to fall in love, but the beautiful, intelligent Rosalind Vernon captures his heart almost immediately. Because she is blind, Rosalind hasn’t had a Season or met any gentlemen apart from her nearest neighbors. So Amberley encourages her to go to London, hoping to woo her once she’s mixed a little more with the world. But their romance is threatened by misunderstandings, jealous rivals, and a tragedy from the past. If you’ve read everything by Georgette Heyer and are looking for a read-alike, I think Stella Riley might fit the bill! Riley isn’t quite as witty, but the character types and dialogue are very Heyeresque. I tend to prefer romances where the characters take a little longer to fall in love — it’s pretty instantaneous for both Amberley and Rosalind here — but otherwise I really liked this one and can’t wait to continue with the series!

Chloe Neill, A Swift and Savage Tide

In this alternate 19th-century world, the Napoleon equivalent has escaped from exile and is bent on conquering Europe through the forbidden use of magic. So Captain Kit Brightling and her crew are once again called upon to stop him — along with infuriatingly attractive soldier Rian Grant. When they encounter an enemy who can manipulate magic in new, powerful, and terrifying ways, Kit realizes she may have to test the limits of her own magical Alignment as well. I enjoyed the first Kit Brightling book quite a bit, and this one is more of the same. I think the series is trying really hard for a “found family” element with Kit’s crew, but I must say I’m not really feeling it; the secondary characters still don’t feel like they have very distinct personalities. I do, however, enjoy the seafaring adventure and the romance, which definitely progresses in this book. I hope a third installment is in the works, because there’s a lot more to explore in this world!

Charlie N. Holmberg, Keeper of Enchanted Rooms

When Merritt Fernsby unexpectedly inherits a house on an isolated island in the Narragansett Bay, he’s delighted — until he realizes that the house is enchanted and won’t let him leave. Luckily, Hulda Larkin is on the case: She belongs to an agency that cares for bespelled houses and knows how to deal with walls that move, libraries that toss books around, bloodred paint that drips from the ceiling and so on. As Hulda helps Merritt adjust to his new home, their relationship deepens, but everything is threatened when a powerful wizard with a grudge against Hulda sets his sights on Merritt’s home. I enjoyed this book, which is sort of a cozy take on the haunted house genre. Both Merritt and Hulda are likable, interesting characters, and I enjoyed watching their relationship grow. But I found the chapters from the villain’s POV distracting and not terribly necessary to the story. Overall, though, I did like this one and plan to seek out the sequel.

Mini-Reviews: Happy, Temptation, Paladin

Emily Henry, Happy Place

Harriet has an extremely tight-knit friend group from her college days, and they still reunite for a week every year at a beach house in Maine. Normally this is Harriet’s happy place, but she’s dreading the trip this year because she and her longtime boyfriend, Wyn, broke up five months ago — but didn’t tell anyone else about it. They decide to pretend they’re still dating so as not to ruin the trip, which goes about as well as you’d expect. This is an angsty, emotional book that I found very compelling while I was reading it, but now I’m thinking it might be a little overblown. I did like that Harriet and Wyn’s problems felt realistic and weren’t magically fixed in the end. I also liked the group dynamic and how the various friendships changed over time. Overall, I did like the book, even if I sometimes wanted the main characters to get over themselves.

Lauren Willig, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

Lady Charlotte Lansdowne has been in love with her distant cousin, Robert, since childhood. After spending several years soldiering in India, he has just returned to claim his inheritance as the duke of Dovedale. Sparks fly between them, and Charlotte is thrilled that Robert finally seems to return her love. But he’s currently more focused on righting a wrong from his past, which means getting close to the sinister Sir Francis Medmenham and his Hellfire Club. This book isn’t one of my favorites in the series, though it’s still a pleasant read. Robert tries to do the whole noble sacrifice, “I’m not good enough for you” thing, which I found deeply frustrating. Also, the French spy’s involvement is never really explained, though maybe the next book will provide some answers? Anyway, I’m still liking the series fine, but this installment is not the strongest.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls

Ista, the 40-year-old dowager royina of Chalion, has survived madness, a curse, and the deaths of several loved ones. She wants nothing more to do with the gods after what she’s suffered, yet she’s so impatient with the dullness of her current life that she goes on a pilgrimage just to get out of the house. But unexpected events — including prophetic dreams, demons, capture by enemy soldiers, and two brothers who seem to share a mysterious wound — make clear that the gods aren’t done with Ista just yet. I’m continuing to love this series! Bujold has created a vivid fantasy world with complex theology and geopolitics. The plot takes a little while to get going, but once it does, it really cooks! I also loved following Ista’s spiritual journey as she comes to terms with the gods’ involvement in her life. I’d definitely recommend this book if you enjoy sword and sorcery, but you should read The Curse of Chalion first.

Mini-Reviews: Ivy, Psalm, Lady

Lauren Willig, Ivy and Intrigue

This story (or short novella?) in the Pink Carnation series revisits Richard and Amy from the first book. They’ve now been married several months and are enjoying life together in the English countryside, but they both sometimes miss their active spying days in France. Espionage finds them again, however, just as Richard’s first love re-enters his life. Can Richard and Amy learn to recognize and communicate their true desires, all while thwarting yet more Bonapartist shenanigans? This is a cute but unnecessary interlude in the series…it’s nice to see a bit more of Richard and Amy (as well as Miles and Henrietta), but the plot is negligible and there’s no character development to speak of. It’s a decent, quick little read, but definitely not necessary even for fans of the series.

Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Sibling Dex, a monk who serves the god of small comforts, suddenly decides to change their life, abandoning the city to travel among rural villages as an itinerant tea monk. But eventually even this makes them restless, and they travel into the wilderness, where they meet a robot named Mosscap. This shocks Dex, since robots retreated to uninhabited portions of the planet after they gained sentience, and they haven’t interacted with humans since. This charming short novel has very low stakes, but it’s quite poignant and philosophical if you’re into that kind of thing. I liked the relationship between Dex and Mosscap, especially their conversation about humans’ desire for purpose. If the premise intrigues you, I think you’ll like this one.

Cecilia Grant, A Lady Awakened

Martha Russell is a recent widow, and she’ll be forced to leave her late husband’s estate when his brother, the heir, takes possession. But the heir is a terrible person who raped two maids, so Martha is determined to prevent him from inheriting somehow. The only option is for her to give birth to an heir herself, which is impossible . . . but if she can convince her neighbor, Theo Mirkwood, to have sex with her until she conceives, she can pass off the baby as a legitimate heir. She has no intention of enjoying their illicit relationship, but the lighthearted, charming Theo is determined to change her mind.

Admittedly, this plot is completely nonsensical, but I didn’t mind because the book is so good! Martha is dismissive, detached, and cold, which makes her a challenging but very interesting heroine. It’s wonderful to watch her grow throughout the book as Theo helps her become less guarded. Meanwhile, Theo also improves as Martha teaches him how to manage his estate. There are a lot of sex scenes in the book, which I’m normally not a fan of, but in this case they wonderfully reveal the progress of the romance. The early scenes are awkward and deeply unsexy, which is so counterintuitive for a genre that tends to idealize sexual relationships. I highly recommend this one to fans of historical romance, especially if you’re interested in a twist on the usual formula.

Mini-Reviews: Neighbors, Cluny, Velvet

Stephanie Burgis, Good Neighbors

Ever since Mia and her father were run out of town by an angry mob wielding torches and pitchforks, she’s tried to appear normal and respectable, hiding her true identity as a metal mage. Too bad her new home is right next door to a necromancer’s castle. Leander has no interest in hiding his own unnatural gifts, and he soon seeks Mia out to form a defensive alliance against the hostile townsfolk. But as Mia and Leander grow closer, the town’s increasing anger toward those with magical powers forces them to take a stand. This is an enjoyable but insubstantial wisp of a book with a heavy-handed message about how society treats those who are perceived as different. The story is a bit sketchy and underdeveloped, and several loose threads are left dangling. I like the author but wouldn’t recommend this particular work — try Masks and Shadows or Congress of Secrets instead.

Margery Sharp, Cluny Brown

Cluny Brown is a young woman who, according to her plumber uncle, doesn’t know her place, so he decides to find one for her as a parlormaid in an English country house. Cluny isn’t a great success as a parlormaid, but she does make several new friends, both upstairs and down. Eventually she decides where (and with whom) she’ll make her true place in the world. This is a quiet slice-of-life novel set just before the outbreak of World War II. It satirizes the English class system but does so in a gentle and affectionate, not mocking, way. The plot centers around romantic complications that all come right in the end, although I did feel sorry for Cluny’s rejected suitor! I also watched the movie starring Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones, which I didn’t like quite as much as the book (it changed too many things, and I think Boyer was miscast). But I would recommend the book if you like this type of novel!

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Velvet Was the Night

This novel, billed as “neo noir,” is set in 1971 against the backdrop of the Mexican Dirty War. Elvis belongs to a gang with shadowy ties to the repressive government; he’s tasked with brutalizing student activists and other left-wing demonstrators. Meanwhile, Maite is dissatisfied with her life and escapes through the pages of romantic magazines. When Maite’s neighbor Leonora, a young woman with possible communist ties, disappears, Elvis and Maite cross paths as they both try to track her down. I’m not a big noir reader, as I generally prefer optimism in my fiction, but I found this novel fascinating. I know shamefully little about Mexican history, so I was happy to learn more about an unfamiliar place and time. I also really enjoyed the story and was able to guess some of the twists and turns. The ending isn’t exactly happy (this is noir, after all!), but it is satisfying and arguably hopeful. Overall, this book impressed me, and I’m eager to try more of Moreno-Garcia’s work.

Mini-Reviews: Lonely, Poison, Romancing

Lucy Gilmore, The Lonely Hearts Book Club

Librarian Sloane Parker seems to have a pretty good life — a job she loves, a successful fiancé — but she’s really just been going through the motions ever since her sister’s tragic death. The highlight of her day is when curmudgeonly old Arthur McLachlan visits the library to argue with her about books. So when a few days go by without Arthur showing up, Sloane is concerned enough to check on him — and even more alarmed when he actually seems happy to see her. She knows Arthur needs support and companionship, so she starts a book club with a few friends and neighbors. Little does she know that every member, not just Arthur, will benefit from the book club, and maybe herself most of all. I liked this one; it’s sentimental, but the lively and humorous writing style kept it from being too saccharine for me. I also liked getting each book club member’s POV; it made them all vivid and distinct characters. I would have liked a bit more closure for some storylines, particularly the romance (which is really just hinted at). But overall, I enjoyed this one and am interested in trying more by Lucy Gilmore.

Bridget Zinn, Poison

Potions expert Kyra is on the run after attempting to assassinate Princess Ariana, her former best friend. Her reasons for this betrayal become clear as the novel progresses. Meanwhile, as she tries to evade the kingdom’s pursuing soldiers, she encounters several strange individuals, including a master criminal, a wicked witch, a handsome but exasperating adventurer, and a very unusual pig. Eventually, Kyra teams up with a few crucial allies to save the kingdom and make some important decisions about her future. This is an enjoyable light fantasy novel that skews toward the younger end of the YA spectrum. The plot is very episodic, and the characters are likable but not particularly complex. The book reminds me somewhat of Ella Enchanted — not as good, but if you liked that book, I think you’ll enjoy this one too.

Julia Quinn, Romancing Mister Bridgerton

Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin Bridgerton for years, but she knows he’ll never return her affections: She’s always been a wallflower and is now a spinster at age 28, whereas Colin is one of London’s most popular and charming bachelors. But Colin has just returned to England after a long trip abroad, and he’s starting to see Penelope in a whole new light. Their fledgling romance is threatened, however, by the secrets they’re keeping from each other, which may cause a huge society scandal. I’m a fan (with caveats) of the Bridgerton TV series, and season 3 is supposed to focus on Penelope and Colin, so I wanted to read their story before the season drops. Unfortunately, this book didn’t particularly work for me, mostly because I found Colin so frustrating. He constantly pouts and sulks and throws temper tantrums, and in the end I just wanted Penelope to get over her infatuation and find someone better! Overall, this one was disappointing, especially after I enjoyed The Viscount Who Loved Me so much.

Mini-Reviews: London, Fortune, Death

Sarra Manning, London, with Love

This contemporary novel follows Jen Richards from her awkward adolescence in 1986 to her middle age in 2021. When she was 16, she was an insecure kid who strongly identified with Sylvia Plath, and she was desperately in love with her brooding, pretentious best friend, Nick. As the years go by, she and Nick pass in and out of each other’s lives, but they can never completely ignore the strong connection between them. I don’t think this is a bad book, but it ultimately wasn’t for me. While I sympathized and related to adolescent Jen, I found her less likable as she got older and (theoretically) more mature. I also didn’t think her relationship with Nick was healthy, so I was never really rooting for the romance. I think this book might really resonate with people who grew up in London during this specific time — but since I’ve barely even been to London (though would love to go back!), I don’t have that nostalgia. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I just don’t think I’m the ideal audience for it.

Kristin Vayden, Fortune Favors the Duke

Six months ago, Quin’s older brother died tragically and unexpectedly, making Quin the new duke of Wesley. Now a grieving Quin must grapple with his new responsibilities, when all he really wants to do is continue his career as a Cambridge professor. Meanwhile, the late duke’s fiancée, Lady Catherine Greatheart, is grieving too, but she’s accepted that it’s time to move on. As Quin and Catherine support one another in their shared loss, they develop romantic feelings but are unsure whether they ought to pursue a relationship. This was another disappointing Regency romance. The premise — man falls for his dead brother’s fiancée — had so much potential, but it’s barely explored. Quin and Catherine fall for each other pretty quickly, with minimal guilt, and the book’s main conflict turns out to involve an external villain. Where was the guilt, the uncertainty, the struggle against (arguably) inappropriate feelings? In my opinion, exploring that conflict would have been way more interesting than the random troublemaker’s shenanigans. Further, the writing style was awkward and inauthentic, and I didn’t even believe in the central romance. I’m glad I got the e-book for free, but I wouldn’t recommend it even at that price.

Hannah March, Death Be My Theme

After a serious illness, Robert Fairfax is convalescing in the rural outskirts of London when he encounters another mystery: Curmudgeonly Gabriel Chilcott falls to his death down a flight of stairs with an expression of horrified shock on his face. The incident appears to be a tragic accident, but then why did Chilcott’s much younger wife lie about the man seen leaving her bedroom? When a local servant is murdered shortly afterwards, Robert investigates and uncovers a particularly cold-blooded killer. This might be my favorite book of the series yet! The mystery plot is very well done, and I also liked the development of Robert’s ill-fated romance with the married Cordelia. There’s even a cameo appearance by the Mozart family, and a mistake in one of 8-year-old Wolfgang’s compositions proves to be a vital clue. I’m hoping the next (and, alas, final) book will give a satisfying ending to the series!

Mini-Reviews: Seduction, Chalion, Summer

Lauren Willig, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose

Mary Alsworthy has just endured the humiliation of watching her younger sister, Letty, run off with the man she was supposed to marry (as detailed in The Deception of the Emerald Ring). Now she’s faced with the awful possibility of becoming a spinster dependent on Letty’s charity. Fortunately, the enigmatic Lord Vaughn steps in with an alternative: he’ll fund another Season for Mary if she agrees to become a double agent, infiltrating the network of the French spy known as the Black Tulip. But the lines between business and pleasure blur as she and Vaughn become increasingly attached to one another. I remember this as being one of my favorite books of the series, and upon re-reading I’d definitely agree! Both Vaughn and Mary were “villains” of previous books, portrayed as cold and amoral, so it’s great to get a new perspective on them here. Though the mystery isn’t terribly compelling (the bad guy is easy to spot), the romance more than makes up for it, I think because both Mary and Vaughn experienced real hardships before getting their happy ending. So far, this installment of the series is the one to beat!

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion

Once an honorable soldier, Cazaril is now physically and mentally broken from long imprisonment, torture and illness. He’s making his way back to the noble household where he once served as a page, hoping the lady of the house can find a small job for him. Instead, she makes him secretary-tutor to the princess Iselle, which thrusts him back into the world of court rivalries and political intrigue. There he encounters powerful enemies and calls on the gods for help — with unexpected results. After loving the Vorkosigan saga so much, I was slightly worried that Bujold’s fantasy novels wouldn’t measure up, but thankfully, I absolutely loved this! Cazaril is the opposite of Miles Vorkosigan in many ways (he’s not arrogant or ambitious, and mainly he just wants to be invisible), but he has a similar snarky internal voice, as well as the same surprising competence in a crisis. I also loved the world of this novel, with its detailed politics, history, and theology. Looking forward to the next book!

Anne Gracie, The Summer Bride

This final book in the Chance Sisters series focuses on Daisy, the Cockney girl who dreams not of marriage but of opening her own dress shop for high-society ladies. Her goal finally seems within reach, but she doesn’t have quite enough money or time to take the next step. Meanwhile, roguish Patrick Flynn may not be an aristocrat, but he’s rich and determined to marry the finest young lady in London. He’s even got a particular earl’s daughter in mind — but for some reason he finds himself drawn to Daisy instead. This book was…fine. I liked that Daisy and Patrick are both outsiders trying to figure out their place in the world. I also really enjoyed their first kiss! But I felt like the obstacles to their relationship (career vs. marriage, kids vs. no kids) were legitimate, and the resolutions were a little too pat. Overall, I enjoyed this series, but The Winter Bride is the only standout for me. Still, Gracie is one of the better Regency authors I’ve encountered lately, so I’ll likely keep exploring her work.