3.5 - 4 stars.
This was a cute romantic historical that fans of Sabrina Jeffries will likely enjoy it. But will they LOVE it? Probably not, but they won’t hate it either. I hope.
This story had many good points and it kept me engaged until the end. It was a light steamy read, albeit predictable and at times disjointed. We meet Lord Stoneville once again (he was a side character in her previous series), and this time he is out to thwart his grandmother who controls the purse strings for the entire family. As background for the entire series, she tells all five of her grandkids that they must marry within 1-years time in order for everyone to get their inheritance. Otherwise, they are looking at gentile-poverty and living well below their desired standards. Lord Stoneville has no interest in marriage, and attempts to dissuade granny by coming home with an unacceptable American commoner he met in a brothel.
This story had so much potential, and I should have been laughing throughout this book. The base ingredients included so much good stuff! Thwarting a granny? An unacceptable fake fiancé? A rake with no conscience?! A star author who writes great steamy scenes? That’s a great recipe, right?! But it just didn’t come together as you would hope, and worse it never made me laugh. Not even one chuckle or giggle. SJ's signature humor was sadly missing.
Instead it had a more somber tone as Lord Stoneville dwells on and on (and on and on) about his past, blaming himself for his parents death when he was only 16. Of course, he is not to blame and everyone but him can clearly see that. I have to say that this is one of my least favorite plot lines. However, a fake fiancé falls under one of my favorite plot lines, so I kept reading! But it fell flat, and the fake fiancé bit didn’t really amount to much. She never creates any big scene that proves her unacceptable. Instead, her storyline focuses on her lost/missing American fiancé who is clearly doing her wrong. (OK, so she doesn’t know what fork to use when eating, and she does dress in a risqué gown out of necessity, but for the most part she comes across as an upstanding and likable person.) And thwarting granny? Well, no rug was pulled out from under that smart lady’s feet. And Steam? I will give SJ bonus points for some great steamy scenes. Wow, she didn’t hold back on writing those parts of the book!
While it was a good story with likable characters, I could not help but think about what could have been. I love Sabrina Jeffries books for many reasons, but mainly because they are steamy, fun romps with interesting characters that I can easily care for. This had some of those elements, but not all. Overall, a better than average historical read, but not a favorite by this author.