Official book description:
Miss Naomi Kwan has long wanted to take ambulance classes so that she can save lives. But when she tries to register, she’s told she needs permission from the man in charge of her. It would be incredibly wrong to claim that the tall, taciturn Chinese nobleman she just met is her fiancé, but Naomi is desperate, and desperate times call for fake engagements. To her unending surprise, Liu Ji Kai goes along with her ruse.
It’s not that Kai is nice. He’s in Wedgeford to practice his family business, and there’s no room for “nice” when you’re out to steal a fortune. It’s not that the engagement is convenient; a fake fiancée winding herself into his life and his heart is suboptimal when he plans to commit fraud and flee the country. His reason is Kai and Naomi were betrothed as children. He may have disappeared for seventeen years, but their engagement isn’t actually fake. It’s the only truth he’s telling.
Naomi works hard to help her parents run the inn in Wedgeford and rarely says or does anything that could be perceived as making trouble. She feels plain and unappreciated and while she’s received several offers of marriage, they’re all from men who clearly just want someone to cook and clean for them. She fears becoming just like her mother, who seems to live an unexciting and quiet life, in a loveless union with Naomi’s father. She’s not entirely sure why the handsome man she ran into by accident in Dover has agreed to pose as her fiancée, but he seems to see things in her that no one else has.
Liu Ji Kai is the son of a disgraced con man who swindled most of the adults in Wedgeford and fled into the night, abandoning his six-year-old son to face the wrath of the villagers. Kai has worked since he was fourteen to distance himself from his odious father. He wants desperately to repay all of the inhabitants of Wedgeford who suffered for his father’s actions, but the only way he can think of to do so is to commit one last audacious fraud, after which he will need to leave the country and disappear.
While he was young, his father arranged a marriage between Kai and Naomi. So Naomi asking him to pretend to be her fiancée isn’t really a lie. He also thinks that once Naomi’s friends and family discover his return and that he’s supposedly a serious suitor to Naomi, they’re going to warn her away from him immediately. He is very clear to her that he’s not to be trusted and that he is an excellent liar, but he also spends weeks restoring the abandoned cottage in which he once lived and starts doing pottery, all while refusing help from anyone in the village. He insists on paying for all his meals at the inn, and once he actually gets his kiln working, he keeps making beautiful pottery and keeps insisting the villagers take some for free, as it would only be going to waste otherwise.
Kai keeps being surprised that while a few of the villagers are understandably upset and distrustful of him, the majority seem to welcome him back and try to make him comfortable as part of the community. Kai is so deeply aware of the wrongs his father did, and while he has spent half his life living away from his father and trying to undo the man’s mistakes, he still hears his father’s cruel and unforgiving voice in his head. He desperately tries to keep himself apart from the townsfolk in general and Naomi in particular. Kai has lived his entire life holding himself separate from those around him, never allowing himself to create any bonds. Attachments just lead to complications. He knows he’s going to leave Wedgeford after his audacious fraud is complete, he’ll never actually be able to marry Naomi – so he has to keep from falling for her (good luck with that).
Full review here.