Series: Reluctant Brides, #1
Release Date: March 13, 2018
This book started out at a gallop, then slowed to a trot and finally ended with a sprint to the finish.
Clara Mayfield is desperate, after helping her sister elope and dragging her family into scandal, she has finishing the season with no prospects until the vile Baron Rutherford asks for her hand. Clara would rather be a spinster than marry the Baron, but her nouveau riche parents long to be accepted by the ton and will not listen to her protests, leaving her no choice but to run away.
With the help of her maid she finds a position in the home of the reclusive William Halstead, the Earl of Ashworth. William has sequestered himself away in the county since the death of his father, older brother and brother in law. He suffers from flashbacks and panic attacks since the accident that claimed his loved ones and has no desire to be part of society. But when he meets Clara, while saving her life, he feels alive for the first time in almost two years. He walks away from her and is shocked and disappointed when she is at his home applying for a position in his under staffed household. At first he refuses to hire her, but finally agrees to a probationary period, he asks her name and she tells him her name is Helen.
For me the story really slowed down at this point, there is not a lot of interaction with Clara/Helen and William, it is mostly Helen the housemaid trying to fit in with the “below stairs” employees and her relationship with his niece, Rosa. While the scenes with William are sparse and fleeting, there is an undeniable attraction between them, but they never spent enough time together for me to believe there was any real connection between them.
The story progresses slowly and there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but when the author begins to wrap up the story, it gains a second wind and takes off like a rocket. And when Clara’s past finally catches up with her, will William be able to forgive her deceit?
I thought this was a decent debut, the writing is a bit on the wordy side and the relationship between William and Clara could have used a bit more development, there were also some inconsistencies and one glaring title error (which is not that bad considering there were several titled characters in the book). But overall, the story was good and I think with time this author will be a strong voice in the HR genre.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an Uncorrected eARC provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher*