About to turn thirty, Charles Finch finally realizes his luck has run out. He’s twenty thousand pounds in debt, his entire family hates him, and the powerful Duke of Rutley is watching his every move. So Charles sets out to do what any handsome but impoverished earl would: find a young lady with an impressive dowry to marry him and replenish his coffers.
Louisa Strickland much prefers managing the successful estate her father left her to the company of society. But now that her younger sister has come of age, Louisa finds herself in Mayfair, forced to protect her family from desperate fortune hunters like her neighbor, Charles Finch. And when Charles sets his sights on Louisa’s sister, Louisa will do anything to avert his attention elsewhere.
As Charles and Louisa find themselves rekindling an old friendship that once went up in flames, Charles begins to wonder if there could be something more between them. He only needs to prove he’s not the man he once was. But unfortunately for Charles, it will take much more than passionate kisses and giving up brandy to convince independent Louisa to marry a rake like him.
Plot: A rake is never any match for a strong heroine, and that is surely the situation between Louisa Strickland and Charles Finch, Viscount Drake, heir to the Earl of Bolton. In this Regency-period romance, she is independently managing her late father’s estate; he is twenty thousand pounds in debt and a pariah to his family. The events here are completely predictable even if there are several intriguing digressions along the way—Louisa and Charles edge closer and closer to each other until they finally fall in love—but Becky Michaels creates tension and suspense enough to make us sit on the edge of our seats, especially since these are eminently likable characters despite having a lot of differences to resolve before they can live happily ever after.
Prose/Style: The prose flows as graciously as a waltz in a Regency ballroom; it is wonderfully unpretentious, engaging, and fun to read. The descriptive text is exhaustive enough to give a sense of the setting, but never becomes tedious. The dialogue reflects believable (if perhaps somewhat unlikely) conversation.
Originality: In Book 2 of the Linfield Hall series, Becky Michaels sweeps the reader into her created world with vivid prose, fast-paced action, and characters we care about. Michaels is also clever enough to make the reader wait until the last chapters for the really steamy sex.
Character Development/Execution: Louisa remains a stalwart woman and adept businesswoman who knows her own mind, even though she might change it at times, while Charles develops from a crass, self-centered aristocrat into a considerate and restrained husband, worthy of the partnership Louisa has offered him, while not foregoing the talents his experience with women bring to the union.
Blurb: Becky Michaels sweeps the reader into her created world with vivid prose, fast-paced action, and characters we care about in this Regency-era romance.
Date Submitted: August 16, 2021
As with Michaels’s previous romance, Lady August, this will prove a perfect fit for readers who relish the wit, society, family dynamics, and focus on smart independent women of Jane Austen novels but prefer a purely romantic storyline. Amid the balls and gossip, Louisa is easy to empathize with: her position of not having to rely on a man for her living gives her rare agency, and readers can easily relate to her disinclination to marry, especially when the man determined to have her as has shown such questionable judgement in the past. (“Insufferable ninny,” she calls herself, when she finds herself enticed.)
This puts welcome focus on Charles, who must convincingly change his ways and learn what sacrifices he must make. Not all of the characters are as richly developed or engaging, with the Duke of Rutley, in particular, a contradictory figure who pushes the plot along. Yet the central couple are memorably conflicted: “Against my better judgment, I cannot,” Louisa sighs when Charles asks if she despises him, and readers who enjoy that dynamic will find much to savor.
Takeaway: This engaging Regency romance features an heiress with rare agency and a rake who must prove himself worth her.
Great for fans of: Minerva Spencer’s Rebels of the Ton series, Evie Dunmore, Sarah MacLean.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A