I haven’t read many of Grace Burrowes’ books, and I’m not sure this one is inspiring me to look for more of hers. As per the Amazon blurb:
Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he’s infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea’s mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?
As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn’t expect tender sentiments from His Grace, but she does wish Noah had courted her trust, lest her past turn their hastily arranged marriage into a life of shared regrets. Is His Grace courting a convenient wife, or a beautiful disaster?
This book is somewhat different in form, in that we plunge into the marriage between Thea and Noah fairly early on. It isn’t a love match by any means – he needs a wife for heirs, and she needs a better life to protect her younger sister. I admit I was intrigued at the premise, since we don’t often get to read much about life after the wedding. Unfortunately, both characters are hiding some information from each other that will make things complicated for them; information that could have been shared quickly before they were wed. Instead, it turns into the big misunderstanding trope that I hate.
Thea is the sister to an earl, but their family has fallen on difficult times and she had to work as a companion to bring in some funds. Her brother is a young man who doesn’t care about much other than drinking and gambling, leaving Thea and her sister to fend for themselves pretty much. The offer to marry the duke is unexpected, but an offer she can’t refuse for financial reasons if nothing else.
Noah refers to himself as ‘Not a nice man’, but he comes across quite decent at the start of the book. He is taken aback by Thea’s shabby household, lack of servants, and her brother’s lack of interest in anything related to his position. He can see why Thea needed to become a lady’s companion to survive, but they don’t discuss much of anything important before the marriage. On their wedding night, things start to unravel quickly. He’s eager to bed her, and she seems to be enjoying it until the moment he is ready to take her virginity…at which point she begs him to stop, even to the point of trying to get away. It was bordering on the edge of rape, in my opinion, as he just keeps on to the final thrust for his own pleasure. Suddenly he realizes that she isn’t as pure as he thought and his manly pride is outraged. He believes that she may have a lover or be trying to foist off another man’s baby as his, so he tells her there won’t be any further sex until her next period so he knows she’s not expecting. As you do.
Thea could have told him the truth at that point, but she doesn’t. It’s quite obvious that she didn’t lose her virginity by choice, and yet she won’t explain this to him. So we have big misunderstanding number one.
Soon after, she discovers there are two little girls living on the estate and she immediately jumps to the conclusion they are Noah’s children, since they look very similar to him. They call him cousin, but she’s convinced that he’s taken in his illegitimate daughters. So this is big misunderstanding number two, as he doesn’t tell her the truth about their parentage.
The rest of the book bumps along, and the two of them try to make the best of their situation. Not much happens until the last chapter, when things are explained and then waved away quite quickly as if they didn’t matter after all, leaving them to live happily ever after. All in all, it’s a long book that revolves around the main couple dancing around their respective secrets without revealing anything, over and over again. Then like whiplash at the end they wrap it up folks and it’s over.