This book is the third in the Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers, which is kind of a sub-series of Desperate Duchesses. These books feature the children of the original group, so it can be confusing sometimes if you haven’t read the original series, and even if you have (which I did) and forgotten who is related to whom. The first book in this series, Three Weeks with Lady X, is one of my all time favorites; the second book wasn’t as good and this one is somewhere inbetween.
Eugenia Snowe is a widow, having lost her husband to a tragic boating accident seven years prior. She is the daughter of a marquis, and could be living quite comfortably but she runs an exclusive agency that supplies governesses to families in society that require the best of everything. Still, she is regarded as above reproach, and a lady in society. She has stayed out of social activities even after her mourning period was over, still missing Andrew, immersing herself in the work. The thought of having a discreet affair is far from her mind, even though she misses the physical side of a relationship.
Then Edward Reeve, (Ward to his friends) illegitimate son of the Earl of Gryffin, storms into her office to demand a governess for his newly arrived siblings. His mother, Lady Lisette, wasn’t the best parent; an actress and free spirit, she married a much younger man and had two more children, Otis and Lizzie. The two children showed up at Reeve’s home after the death of their parents, and he is unprepared to care for them. If he doesn’t come up with a suitable governess, his grandmother, the Duchess of Gilner, is quite prepared to swoop in and remove the children from his care. There’s no way he wants that to happen, as he knows the Duchess is a cold and miserable old woman.
The first governess doesn’t last very long, and Ward returns to London to request that Eugenia step in temporarily until they can find someone else. Ward has been out of society by choice, and he really has no idea of her true identity – he believes that she is a retired governess, not a lady of the ton. He’s captivated by her, and he ends up ‘kidnapping’ her to take her away to his estate. Eugenia is already attracted to him as well, so it’s not such a hardship for her to go along with his plan.
Once they are at his estate, she becomes the governess the children needed and the lover that Ward desires. Unfortunately, Ward thinks he needs a true lady for a wife, so that he can keep his siblings and convince his grandmother that they will be raised in proper society manner. So no matter how much he is falling for Eugenia, he still thinks she’s just a governess. I know that information wasn’t readily available in those days like it is now, but really how could he not have picked up some inkling that she is exactly the woman he needs? And even though Eugenia is aware of his misconceptions, she doesn’t think it’s her place to tell him. This is one of those tropes that is so frustrating, but of course if they would discuss things there wouldn’t be any story.
Overall, it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed the glimpses of some characters from previous books, and the children were cute if a bit too precious. Otis has a pet rat, and Lizzie likes to quote lines from plays her mother performed in, while wearing a veil. As for Eugenia and Ward, it wasn’t a romance that I was overly invested in but it was an easy read.