Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The 12 Dukes of Christmas, #9
Release Date; September 4, 2020
Lady Isabelle “Belle”, sister to Duke of Nottingvale is on her way to Cressmouth for Christmas when her maid takes ill and she insists they stop in Houville. Worried about ruining her reputation, she tells the innkeeper she is a widow, Mrs. Lepine, thinking they will only be there for one night. She is out of her element tries to make the best of things, but is unsure what she is supposed to do, as she has never been on her own before. She is looking at the crowded dining room and notices a handsome, well dressed man. He beckons her over and invites her to sit at his table. Grateful, Belle immediately takes a liking to the handsome stranger.
Calvin McAlister is in Houville preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime, he and his partner Jonathan MacLean have come up with a revolutionary idea – a line of ready-made formal wear for the average man. They will plan to sell or rent their cloths in shops, but primarily by mail order. Up until now it has been a dream, but the chance to have the Duke of Nottingvale as an investor could make that dream a reality. Calvin is a recluse by nature and feels uncomfortable in social situations, making his partnership with Jonathan perfect. Jonathan will handle the people and Calvin the clothes. So it makes no sense to him why he offered to share his table with the lovely stranger. As soon as he offers, he regrets his decision, but is delighted to discover, Mrs. Lepine feels just as awkward as he does and that he enjoys her company.
Belle and Calvin will grow much closer when a bout of the flu leaves the inn shorthanded and leaves Belle without a maid’s assistance in dressing – a task she hires Calvin to do! When he discovers what a talented artist she is, he hires her to finish painting his catalogue sketches. They are falling hard, but when the truth of who she is comes out, will their love survive?
This was a well written, nicely paced, absolutely delightful novella. Belle and Calvin are wonderful characters who are perfect for each other despite their social status disparities. This book had secondary characters, but they really play a very small role in the story, also this book was a bit steamier than the previous offerings in the series (not a complaint!) but it fit the story and I loved the ending. I am happy to recommend this book, it is the ninth book in the series, but it can easily 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.*