This is one of my favorite historical romances ever. I read, on average, 75-100 books a year and I've been reading historical romance for almost twenty years, and this one has remained near the top of my list. It’s the book I give to friends who are interested in reading historical romances.
First off, I adore the hero, Kit. He is my favorite type—a “happy-go-lucky” façade covering deep emotional hurt. Kit is charming, yes, but he is also deeply scarred from his time as a soldier and his guilt over his brother’s death (no spoilers about what happened between them, as it’s an important part of Kit’s story in the books).
I spent four years in the US Army and deployed to Iraq. Kit has a quote near the end of the book that perfectly encapsulates my own feelings about what happens after war and it remains one of my favorite pieces of dialogue. I’m not going to quote it below as it’s rather long and I think a bit of a spoiler regarding Kit’s actions for much of the book, but it occurs near the end.
It took me a little longer to warm up to Lauren, but once I did, she is perfectly wonderful character as well. She had an embarrassing encounter in the previous book in front of the entire ton (her fiancé’s presumed dead wife shows up on the wedding day) and she is scared that she will never find love. Her composure after these events plays nicely off Kit’s charm and humor. Of course, Lauren’s humor and “fun” side of her personality is exposed as she spends more time with Kit and his family, who are at odds with each other.
The premise of the book is that Kit and Lauren agree to pretend to be engaged for the benefit of both of both. Kit’s parents are trying to arrange a marriage for him with Freyja Bedwyn, a next-door neighbor who he previously engaged in a relationship with even though she was promised to his (now dead) brother. Lauren wants to escape society and live a quiet life, and having two failed engagements will make her scandalously unmarriageable and she’ll retire to a country cottage.
Watching the relationship turn into friends and then as they fall in love is a delight. They complement each other perfectly and I fully believe the feelings between them. Kit falls for her quickly and it takes Lauren longer but the resolution between them is wonderful. Lauren is also an integral reason why Kit and his family begin to repair what had fractured with his brother’s death and his younger brother’s injuries from war.
I would recommend this story to anyone who wants a quiet, character-driven romance with a few surprises as the couple fall in love. The amount of outer conflict is minimal (though there are some attempts by other people to break the engagement) and this is a story that features real internal conflict for both of our main characters. But it never seemed to drag despite all the introspection, and in fact, that is one of the reasons I enjoy this book and this author.
Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors and she is one of the few I automatically buy new releases for. I haven’t liked everything she has written but I believe this is one of her best and give this book 5/5 stars.
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