Hugh Standish, the Earl of Fareham, has a bit of a problem. His mother is coming to visit, all the way from America, to meet his fiancée. His fiancée who Hugh has entirely made up to stop his mother from matchmaking. Hugh has created an entirely fictional fiancée named Minerva, and he’s about to get caught. Or is he?
Hugh happens to come to the rescue of a young lady trying to claim her earnings from an advertisement she created illustrations for. And just to his luck, this young lady’s name just happens to be Minerva. And she just happens to be in dire need of some money. And she’s desperate enough to agree to go along with Hugh’s wild plan. The plan is for Minerva to come to his estate in Hampshire, train up a bit to play the part of the fictional Minerva well enough to fool his mother, and then run off with his best friend Giles, leaving Hugh ‘heartbroken’ and with another buffer of time before his mother starts matchmaking again. Only, a few things don’t exactly go to plan. Minerva insists on bringing her two sisters, Diana and Vee, with her. And Giles gets unexpectedly called away. And his mother arrives two weeks early. Oh, and Hugh and Minerva fall in love. But both think they aren’t good enough, or they think the other thinks they aren’t good enough, so there’s some moping.
The whole thing is a comedy of errors and misunderstandings with a few serious moments thrown in. There are things that you could call from a mile off, but hey, this is a romance novel, what more do you want? One of the things that threw me a bit was the character of Vee (or Venus.) She is supposed to be seventeen years old, but she acts (and is treated like) a child of maybe eleven? I’m not sure if she’s supposed to have some sort of learning or developmental disability, but she certainly doesn’t act her age, especially for the time period. Girls her age were getting married, and there’s no way she would be that naive living in poverty. She appears to be able to pull herself together at times, but others not so much. She throws tantrums and has trouble remembering place settings, but she seems to be alright riding a horse, so I’m not quite sure what her deal is. I’m also a bit disappointed we didn’t see more of Minerva’s artistic talents. We never really see her create art during the course of the book. Diana and Giles are fun characters. Diana reminds me a bit of Eloise from the Bridgerton series. Giles comes across as shallow, but I’m sure he has hidden depths, just like Hugh does.
(This title will be released on November 9, 2021. I received a digital review copy free of charge from Edelweiss +.)