Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The 1797 Club, #7
Release Date: May 22, 2018
I really enjoyed this installment of the 1797 Club – I will admit, second love romance is not my favorite trope and I am rarely satisfied with the “love” between the hero and heroine, but I am pleased to say, I did finish this book feeling like Matthew and Isabel were soulmates and were “meant to be”.
Matthew Cornwallis, Duke of Tyndale has been mourning his late fiancée for the last three years, he has watched his friends find love and is convinced his chance for love died with Angelica. His friend Robert, the Duke of Roseford tells him he needs to start living again and badgers him into accompanying him to the Donville Masquerade – a pleasure club. He agrees to go, but plans to slip out once Robert is occupied. But when he notices a woman being harassed, he steps in and is shocked to feel an immediate attraction – more intense than he has ever had for ANY woman.
Isabel Hayes, is a widow living with her uncle, she has snuck out to the club to feel passion – she is not indulging, just watching. When Matthew saves her from unwanted advances, she is grateful and surprised to admit ~ aroused. They dance and share a kiss, shaken by the feelings, she bolts.
Days later, they both return to the club, neither can forget the connection they felt. This time, they take things further and make love, but when Isabel sees Matthew’s face while he is readjusting his mask, she is horrified and again runs. Isabel is stunned, Matthew is her late cousin Angelica’s fiancée and the man her uncle is convinced murdered her! She is torn, she cannot believe the gentle, considerate lover she met is capable of murder and decides to return to the club – to investigate him (that’s her story and she is sticking to it!). When they meet again and spend another night of passion, she begins to probe him for information. She leaves not sure if he is grieving or guilty. She sneaks back into her uncle’s house and is confronted by him, Her uncle Fenton says it is time for her to remarry and they will begin looking for a new husband at the Callis’ ball.
At the ball, Isabel’s uncle pairs her with a friend of his, a man 25+ years her senior, she is dishearten, she was already married to one older man and was unhappy, she certainly doesn’t want to marry another.
Matthew is at the ball and sees Fenton, he is going to leave to avoid an ugly confrontation, but then he sees his mystery lover speaking to him and learns who she is – he confronts her and asks if their meeting was a trap – she swears she didn’t know who he was when they met – he kisses her and leaves – angry and aroused. He goes home and tells himself to stay away from her, but his base self urges him to chase her and catch her. Her uncle is out for blood and tells Isabel. She decides that she must warn him and then will stay away.
When they meet again, she tells him to be wary of her uncle, he brushes off her warning, Fenton has been harassing him for years and nothing has ever come from it. When things become heated, they are caught together by her uncle and several other people. Isabel stands up to her uncle in his defense, but Matthew says they will marry.
Her uncle is thrilled that Tyndale is involved in a scandal, he tells Isabel that he had to sacrifice her in order to make everyone see that Matthew is a villain. She is sure her uncle has gone mad from the grief of losing his daughter, but she will not be a party to hurting Matthew, she tells her uncle Matthew is innocent of murder. She will marry Matthew, to protect him.
Matthew’s friends are sure Isabel is in cahoots with her uncle and beg Matthew to reconsider marriage, but he is not sure, he knows that he wants her and has never felt anything like the feelings she invokes in him with any other woman, including Angelica. His friends meet her and make it clear that they do not trust her. Personally, I felt that Helena was especially cruel, I understand protecting a friend, but her interaction with Isabel went beyond warning her and charged into just plain mean and hurtful, without true cause.
They marry and at the wedding feast, Fenton becomes unhinged and makes hateful accusations, Isabel again defends Matthew and tells her uncle he is no longer welcome. Over the next few days, Isabel and Matthew forge a relationship, not just hot sex (although, there is plenty of that). Matthew begins to think they could have a true marriage and maybe love. When they are called to Ewan’s home for the birth of his child, things change for them. His friends seem to welcome her into their set, Helena apologizes to her and Matthew knows that he wants her with him always.
It seems like they are well on their way to their HEA, when Fenton finally makes his move and Matthew realizes that he loves Isabel and it might just be too late to tell her.
This book is well written, flows nicely, has really HOT love scenes (YES!!) wonderful characters, a lot of emotion, a truly demented villain, an almost too good to be true heroine, cameos with the other dukes and their wives and a truly lovely ending with an epilogue. While I did feel that Matthew loved Isabel completely, I can’t like some of the story points involving Angelica.
I would be happy to recommend this book and while I would suggest reading the series in order, this book could be read as a stand alone title.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*