All of London, even down to the riffraff, already knew what the ball’s special announcement would be. There was no mystery, although the dowager Duchess of Baynton’s guests would feign surprise when the moment for the announcement arrived.
They called it the Match of the Century.
Her son, the duke of Baynton, London’s richest and unarguably most handsome gentleman, would announce his betrothal to the Miss Elin Morris, also known as Morris Heiress, thereby uniting two great fortunes and two magnificent adjoining country estates in Leicestershire along the River Trent.
And the reason everyone anticipated the “announcement” was because it was a well-known fact that Elin had been promised to the duke almost since the day of her birth. Yes, she had been presented at Court and had gone through the motions of a First Season but it had all been just a formality, a “show.” The duke was hers. She had Baynton, the epitome of a lordly lord, the Nonpareil.
“And I am not worthy of him,” Elin whispered, stopping the furious pacing she’d been at for the last ten minutes in an attempt to settle anxious nerves and a confused mind.
Her bedroom in her parent’s London house was fit for a princess. The India carpet in hues of blue was thick and soft beneath her stockinged feet. Her furniture was gilded in the opulent manner her parents preferred.
Back in Heartwood, the Morris family estate, which adjoined the Baynton’s family seat, the furniture in her room was simple and to her tastes. Here, her parents ruled. They were London creatures, darlings of society.
And Elin? Well, their only child preferred the quieter life at Heartwood. Of course, all that would change when she became Baynton’s duchess. He was too important to have his wife rusticate in the country.
She caught a glimpse of herself in her dressing table mirror, a lone figure in finely woven petticoats, her face pale beneath a mop of over-curly brown hair. Her dark eyes reflected her agitation. They threatened to swallow her face.
“It’s not that I don’t want Baynton,” she attempted to explain to her image. “It is that I shouldn’t have him. Not without telling him–”
I loved the prequel novella A Little Thing Called Love , but the excerpt for the first full-length book in the series had me a little worried. Jenny and Fyclan go against all the odds–and Jenny’s family–to be together, but then set up an arranged marriage for their only daughter with a duke from the minute she’s born? What’s up with that?
Fortunately, Elin asks that very same question–eventually. It does take her a while, but that’s okay–she gets there, and finally decides to start fighting for herself and what she wants, not just what her father’s gypsy grandmother predicted.
He does go off the rails for a teensy little bit, but he pulls himself back together nicely and becomes the man Elin–and his family–need him to be.
And there’s a feel-good HEA at the end, so win-win!
Now my only problem? The poor duke! I really, really liked him by the book’s end, and need the poor guy to get his own HEA. Ms. Maxwell apparently has it out for him, though, because the next book isn’t going to be his, either, even though it looks like he’ll think it is…again…
(Don’t think I don’t see what you’re doing here, Ms. Maxwell. This is all a clever plot to get me to read the whole series, yes?
Darn it, it’s working!)
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.