James, the newest Duke of Harland, must find a wife as soon as possible. Not that he really wants to look for a wife, or even intends to spend much time with her once he does find one, but since inheriting his title he knows marrying well and producing an heir are his top priorities. So he does it the easiest way he knows how and that’s by inviting four of the most eligible women Britain has to offer to his estate for three days to vie for his attention. He’ll pick the most respectable, sire an heir and then return to his cocoa bean plantation in Trinidad.
Charlene Beckett is the daughter of a courtesan and an earl. She’s kind of stuck right in the middle of a world she wants no part of. She has greater ambitions than becoming a courtesan like her mother. Only she has a great many problems… Her beloved sister is a talented artist, but needs a teacher and a chance to practice her craft. She has a sick mother and a house full of ladies of the night to look after. And last, but certainly not least, the man who lent the money which enabled her mother to open the brothel where they all live wants his money back one way or another. She really has no options. That is until the wife of her father suddenly appears on her doorstep one evening with a proposition. She must impersonate her half-sister for three days, win the Duke of Harland’s attention and affection and then disappear back into her life while her sister becomes a Duchess. Simple right?
It took me a little while to get into this one. I liked the premise and even found the characters intriguing, but for some reason, my interest wavered in and out for the first several chapters. Then all of a sudden, as James and his guests dined and each of the young ladies invited chatted about nonsensical things while their host lusted after a tightly corseted Charlene, I found myself suddenly quite engaged. Charlene is funny and determined and refreshingly candid about her ideas on how women and children should be treated. She knows how to defend herself and isn’t afraid to toss a footman, or rather a duke 🙂 , around if they get too fresh. James, who at first comes across as a bit of an ass, morphs into this nice guy who while unconventional, is worried about the treatment of slaves on his plantation and truly wants those employed at his factories treated fairly and with respect. He’s also very un-duke like (which I liked). I mean he walks around with his shirt sleeves rolled up playing guitar for his guests. During one scene he even suggests, much to the horror of a few of the mamas, that the group of wet and bedraggled ladies (I won’t even get into why they ended up wet and bedraggled) take off their dresses so as not to catch a chill.
Charlene needs James to fall for her, and while you can tell she really has her doubts about the whole deal, the money she would make from this plan would solve most of her problems. She and James have a genuine romance that develops into a fabulous relationship. I really, really liked them together. I will admit to worrying how the ending would play out. I mean would James realize he was marrying the wrong woman? How long would the author drag the duplicity out? And just who is this sister Charlene is impersonating? But to my delight the ending was perfect.
When I discover a new author I always get a little thrill. This is this author’s debut and I am happy to report I’m looking forward to whatever she puts out next. Final Grade- B-
She arched beneath him, urging him to move faster. “James,” she gasped. “Come. Climb with me.”
And he did.
And she was right there with him.
Where she belonged.