Hi All! We are going to change things up a little bit with this review. Since both Barbara and I read this book and we both had differing views of the stories, we decided a joint review was in order!
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Our Average Rating for the Collection: 4 of 5 stars
I hope that this anthology is a precursor to a series by one or both of these authors because this only whetted my appetite to learn more about Miss Brodie and her academy. How did her school come to have such diverse offerings in the curriculum? How did she come by instructors who could and would teach those diverse subjects? How did she even come to start a school?
The Way to a Gentleman’s Heart by Theresa Romain (4 out of 5 stars)
Marianne Redfern’s family wasn’t wealthy, but she was happy – after all, she loved Jack Grahame and he loved her in return. He wanted to marry her! Then, she learned the scoundrel was betrothed to a rich heiress when the banns were read in church. She could understand him needing to marry for money in order to save his family, but she couldn’t forgive that he didn’t even have the courage to tell her. Since she couldn’t stand to stay there, she just packed up and left for London. Since the skills she’d learned in the household of a gentleman didn’t really have any value in the employment market, she got desperate pretty fast. Luckily, she came across Miss Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies where Miss Brodie was willing to take a chance on her. She started in the kitchen as a kitchen maid and, over eight years, she worked her way up to cook. She was proud of herself for what she had accomplished. It was hard but very rewarding work and she was good at it.
Jack Grahame loved Marianne Redfern with all of his heart – and it broke that heart when he had to do as his father said and marry an heiress in order to save his family from ruin. It wasn’t the happiest of marriages because each of them was in love with someone else, but they did become friends of a sort. The money saved his family and the lands, but it didn’t save his heart. Then, he lost his father and his wife and had been in social mourning for the last two years. Now, it was time to find his heart again – if she’d forgive him and have him back.
Jack and Marianne have a bit of forgiving to do – on both sides. Their journey to their HEA isn’t smooth, but they each learn a lot about themselves during that journey. There is also a bit of humor – as in Marianne makes Jack a kitchen maid when she is short-handed in the kitchen.
Counterfeit Scandal by Shana Galen (4 out of 5 stars)
Bridget was working for the Home Office as a counterfeiter when she fell in love with Caleb who was a spy. Caleb left on a mission, a long and very dangerous mission – and he didn’t tell her he was going. Just as she learned she was expecting Caleb’s child, she was told that Caleb had died. She resigned from the Home Office and soon met a man who cared for her even though she didn’t love him in return. He was fine with her having Caleb’s child. So, she married him because she thought it would give her child a better life. Well – that was a mistake. Her husband was good to her and her son, James, but he was naïve when it came to money, so Bridget and her husband ended up in debtor’s prison. Rather than subject her young son (about 3 years old) to life inside the prison, she took him to a foundling home and told them she’d be back for him.
Several years later, her husband is dead and she’s out of prison with all debts paid. She’s been working at Miss Brodie’s Academy for a year and has saved up enough money to rent a room and to retrieve James from the orphanage. Except, the orphanage isn’t there anymore. It burned and nobody can tell her what happened to the orphans who lived there.
She rents the room with the intention of spending every spare minute looking for James. However, as she is leaving the home where she has rented the room, Caleb is entering the same home. She is absolutely and totally shocked. She tells him that he must find a new place to live and otherwise expresses her anger. Later, she realizes that she needs Caleb’s help to find James, so she tells him the whole story. He has also explained why he hasn’t contacted her and why they faked his death. They decide to work together even though it will put Caleb’s life in danger.
Their search takes them to Spitalfields and Mayfair and into a lot of danger. Quite an exciting search.
This was a sweet little novella duo by Theresa Romain and Shana Galen, both stories center around the school that the heroines work for – Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. Both stories are second chance at love stories and Ms. Galan’s has a tie in to her Survivor’s series!!
The Way to a Gentleman’s Heart by Theresa Romain (3/3.5 out of 5 stars)
Marianne Redfern is the head cook at the Academy, she arrived 8 years ago, with no skills, no money and a broken heart. Her love married another woman and she couldn’t bear to stay. She began as a kitchen maid and worked her way up to head cook. She is content, but she is still heartsore. When Jack Grahame reappears in her life, she is not sure what to feel – elation? Anger? Betrayal? Love? Jack made a choice years ago and sacrificed love for the greater good. Now widowed, he has to know, is it too late? This was a sweet second chance at love story, featuring two people with a lot of pride and a love that never died.
Counterfeit Scandal by Shana Galan (4/4.5 out of 5 stars)
Bridget Lavery gave up her son 5 years ago when she and her husband were sent to debtor’s prison. Her husband died in prison and when she was freed, she got a job at the Academy teaching art and other less proper skills. She has finally saved enough money to get a room of her own and find her son. The orphanage she left him at burned down and no one seems to know what happened to the children. When she is leaving the boarding house, she runs into a ghost from her past, Caleb Harris, her former love, father of her son and a man she believed dead. Caleb is in hiding, he left Bridget years ago without a word and let her believe he was dead, he worked for the Foreign Office and left to be a spy. Now years later, he is back, but he has a price on his head. He is shocked to see Bridget, the only woman he ever love and the woman he had hoped to marry. He manages to follow her and tries to explain. She wants nothing to do with him and tells him to leave. The next day she is glad to learn he didn’t – she tells him about their son and asks for his help finding him. He agrees, but warns that there is a bounty out on him. They work together and the love they had is still alive, but will they find their son before Caleb is discovered? This was a great novella with steamy love scenes and a nice little tie into the Survivors Series, but it did end rather abruptly and I would have liked a better glimpse of their HEA.
While I enjoyed both stories, I finished the book not really knowing anything about Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies other than it is a school for girls and that besides traditional classes, they are taught self defense and some other questionable skills. I think I would have enjoyed a collaborative short story at the beginning of the book about Mrs. Brodie and why she started her school, I think it would have really added to the novellas if I understood the true goal and motivation for the Academy.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me.*