** 4.5 stars rounded up **
We met Emily Howard and Griffin Crawford in the first book of the series, No Ordinary Duke. They were attracted to each other from their first meeting, but each knew nothing could ever come of it. Griffin would soon be leaving England to return to Austria and his clockmaking business while Emily knew she’d never marry because – well – who would want her. This is book two of the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone. However, I would recommend reading the first book of the series first simply because it is a marvelous book and the author does a wonderful job of setting up the series and introducing the characters.
In the first book, we learned that there was a total of four sons in the Crawford family along with a cruel, hateful, spiteful father and an ineffectual mother. There was George, the heir and then the triplets Caleb, Griffin, and Devlin. George was always treated well, spent time with their father, etc., but the other three were expected to do their father’s bidding – no matter what. When Caleb rebelled and ran away rather than bend to his father’s will, Griffin and Devlin soon did the same. That was ten years ago and now they have all returned to England because both George and their father died and Caleb is now the Duke of Camberly. The once close brothers have grown apart and both Griffin and Devlin will leave England again – well – actually – Devlin has already left and Griffin will be on his way in a few days. That is – he was – until the ball at Camberly House.
In the six years she’d spent living in the country with her friends Lady Cassandra and Mary, Emily hadn’t ever believed she’d return to society – and had no desire to do so. However, since Mary had married Caleb Crawford, Emily had to be supportive and that meant being in London to attend Mary’s first ball at Camberly House. Emily knew she’d never marry, but, just once, she’d like to experience a kiss – nothing more – just one kiss. She had decided that Mr. Bale would do nicely for that kiss – so she agreed to a refreshing walk outdoors with him.
Griffin saw Emily step out of the ballroom with Mr. Bale and hurried after them. When he found them and it appeared that Mr. Bale was preparing to kiss Emily, he stepped forward and summarily sent Mr. Bale back inside. Griffin hadn’t expected to have to face Emily’s wrath, but that is what he got. As they talked on the way back in, Griffin couldn’t help but give in and give Emily that first kiss she wanted so badly. It was a chaste kiss, not the kind he wanted to give her, but it was a kiss nonetheless. Only, it was interrupted by her mother, her sister, and her aunt – all of whom insisted that they must now marry.
While Griffin was willing to acquiesce to their demand, Emily was not. She told them that there was no way she’d ruin Griffin’s life by tying him to a bride he didn’t want and she promptly headed out of the ball. When Griffin determined that she was headed back to Clearview, the home she’d shared with the other women for the last six years, he headed out after her.
What a wonderfully seductive dance they did around each other. Neither wanting to be attracted to the other, but powerless to fight it. Throw in a total lack of communication on the important issues, a meddling mother, additional suitors, and past secrets and you have a volatile mix. Their path to their HEA is definitely not smooth nor easy but well won.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly, but it did seem to be a bit unevenly paced in places. I was also not nearly as invested in Emily and Griffin as I had been in Mary and Caleb – but I still loved them.
The epilogue in this book is absolutely to die for. It will absolutely make your heart soar. The epilogue takes place forty-five years in the future and shows Emily and Griffin getting ready to go to Austria for the birth of a grandchild. What a lovely, lovely scene and it shows how their love has grown and endured.
I definitely recommend this lovely read and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.