Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.
His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.
But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…
I hardly ever read historical romances. I’m so ignorant of the genre that I don’t think I can even name a couple of authors, so I’m pretty surprised at myself that I chose to read this book at the end of the year (I know it’s already 2019 but I read this one around Christmas) instead of trying to get to the many other books already on my TBR. But I’m moody as hell and everyone seems to love it, so I picked it up and gosh, it was so much fun to read. I felt thoroughly entertained and I couldn’t have asked for anything different during the holidays.
Duke Ashbury is really grumpy, broody, angry at everyone and life in general because of what happened to him during and after the war. I could understand where he was coming from, especially when we realize the circumstances of his broken engagement, but he behaves quite badly towards people who do happen to care about him and I didn’t always like that. However, he meets his match in Emma who is good and kindhearted, but also very fierce and sassy and never lets him get away with his bad behavior. I loved that despite her sad past, she decided to move on from it and make something of her life, which gives her the confidence to stand up for herself, fight for what she wants and never back down from expressing her thoughts and feelings.
There are so many wonderful side characters here and I loved every single one of them. All the servants who work in the house just want their beloved Duke to be happy again and all their shenanigans to make that happen, and their encouragement to Emma was very sweet. The unlikely friendship that Emma develops with a gang of women is so much fun to read, because it’s female friendship done well. There is no gossip or backbiting between them, just genuine affection and I loved their dynamic. It’s also cool that each of them have their own quirks, and I’m very excited to read all of their stories.
I’m not sure what I was exactly expecting from this book, but I didn’t think it would be such a fun read. The author writes great banter between our two main protagonists and it was a delight to read the back and forth. The way that Ash tries to remain unaffected despite Emma’s flirting and instead tries to fight back makes for a lot of fun conversations and I have highlighted so many of them. Even though both the characters have sad backstories, especially having to deal with the physical manifestation of what happened to him, I liked that the author didn’t let the book go too dark and let the protagonists handle their pain through humor, but with empathy. There is also a whole hilarious subplot about the Monster of Mayfair and his sidekick Menace, and I just couldn’t stop laughing at all their antics and way the legend grows. Another big surprise for me was the steaminess – I did not expect this book to be so sexy and hot but it really is and that was quite amusing.
If you like historical romances, then you might already know about this book and I really don’t need to say anything more. However, I think this book is perfect for readers like me, who enjoy contemporary romances with sassy protagonists and want to give this genre a try. I won’t speak for the authenticity of the time period, but as a romance novel, this book lived up to all my expectations and I’m sure you will enjoy it too.