This is a Victorian marriage of convenience story. With a description like that I was willing to try a new author. Victoria is an American heiress who has been raised to try and marry in to the British aristocracy. She has no expectations of a love match and all she really wants is the freedom from her parents that a marriage will bring. Andrew is the second son of an impoverished duke whose older brother has recently died. Victoria’s father basically wins Andrew in a card game. Victoria is complacent in the idea of marriage, and is willing to try and make the best of it. Andrew is against marrying a stranger for money, but feels he has no choice since he needs to protect his younger sisters. They are both attracted to each other and resent the other party for their attraction. Andrew just wants to go back to his archeological dig in Italy, and does so for much of the book (I hate when the characters don’t get to spend much time together, but at least there is correspondence in this one). Victoria spends her time fixing up Andrew’s crumbling family estate.
This is the first book in a three book series, and as far as I can see, this author’s first historical romance. It definitely reads like a first time author wrote it, but it holds some promise for improvement as she gets some more books under her belt. There are a lot of romance tropes here. There is the ever-annoying Lack of Communication. But, I could live with it in this setting since the marriage of convenience happened particularly quickly. There are Big Misunderstandings on both sides. But, both the hero and heroine come to terms with the situation and are mature about it before ever learning the truth.
So, I stayed up too late reading this one night (did not finish in a single night), but at the same time I don’t give it a super high rating. Some of it was extremely cliche and I felt like I had read it before. Like the scene with the petty women in the dressmaker’s shop. How many times have I read a variation on that? Victoria’s parents are one-dimensional and their only driving goal is to see her married to a title. There is no explanation for this at all other than her mother’s social ambitions. I’ve seen that character before, but with much better background and depth.
The hero does keep a mistress before he meets the heroine, and he keeps her even during the beginning of the relationship. I know some readers hate when a hero or heroine (though doesn’t it always seem to be the hero?) is with someone else during a book, so be forewarned here. I don’t like it, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me. What annoys me to no end is something that I see ALL the time, and once again here: the hero keeps the woman from his past but, BUT it’s not the same at all ever since he met the heroine. Honestly, I would rather the guy stay with the woman he has an existing relationship with because he still cares about her – it makes him seem incredibly shallow that he keeps the relationship because of convenience? or lack of initiative? I’m not sure what to call it. Having feelings for two people at the same time I can accept, even if I don’t like it.
It may seem like I’m complaining a lot about this book, but I think that’s mostly because I enjoyed it, I just thought it could be better. The writing held my attention, and a marriage of convenience plot is hard to ruin in my eyes. The potential I saw here is what is making me nit-picky. I’m not really interested in the second book in the series, but the third intrigues me (a ‘falling for the best friend of the fiance’, which I often enjoy), so I may pick that up and give it a try.