I’m having trouble with this one! On the one hand, I liked it. On the other, I thought it needed just a little something else. I never really cared the way I should have, the way I’ve cared about her other characters in past books.
Verity Plum is a publisher and bookseller; John Ashby is an engraver. They have known one another for ages, and always a low-simmering attraction they’ve both ignored has been present. Both for different reasons have been scared to change their dynamic. But then a series of events occur that convince both of them to give in, just for a little while. As the title may imply, Ash discovers he’s the lost heir to a duke, after believing his whole life he’d been abandoned by his family, some illegitimate by-blow, crippled and thrown in the gutter (he has epilepsy, which was NOT understood back then). And Verity, newly successful publisher and sole creator of The Ladies Register, has just had to send her brother to America for his own protection, as she and Ash both thought his activities and published works were becoming so seditious the Redcoats were bound to come for him soon, and prison, or execution would be the result.
This is the author’s first straight up m/f romance (and even then, the heroine is bisexual, and there are other queer characters that aren’t the main pair). I’m not sure whether that affected my rating here, but I don’t think it did. Although, I wasn’t super enthusiastic about her other non m/m book, the first book in the series either. And, I think, for similar reasons. She skips over my favorite parts of a romance, the getting to know you dynamic. Here, obviously, the two characters have known each other for forever, but when you introduce a new dynamic, we should get to see them navigating it! And we don’t. We also don’t really get to see Ash getting to know his aunt, or really doing the emotional work in coming to terms with his new title. And! (and this may not be the fault of the author, but the person who wrote the blurb copy) it’s barely about publishing dirty novels at all! I would have liked to see more of Verity’s work there, and maybe have it tie even more into the plot than it did. The naughty novel is basically just an excuse for them to get all hot and bothered, and I think it could have been a lot more than that.
Basically, I just wanted more. This book was not fleshed out enough. It kind of read like she was jumping from point to point, and just wanting it to be over. Which is a shame, because I really liked both Verity and Ash, I liked the setting, and I would have liked to have really seen more of all of it.
[3.5 stars, rounded down for now, I think]