Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Awakened by a Kiss, #1
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Declan Shaw is rotting in Newgate, charged with a crime he did not commit. He was hired by the palace to escort Miss Knightly Snow to her aunt in the south of France, but Miss Snow disappears and Declan is charged with abduction and foul play, with the threat of murder hanging over his head. He has tried without success and at considerable expense to have the charges dropped, but to no avail. But all that changes when he is visited by Titus Girdleston, the uncle to the Duke of Lusk. He tells Declan that The Duke is betrothed to Lady Helena Lark, but the lady is not thrilled at the prospect of marrying the duke – she has evaded the marriage for the last five years, but has at last agreed to come to London. Girdleston wants Declan to guard her and make sure she doesn’t bolt – the reward if he succeeds is great, enough to settle his debts and care for his father and sisters, not to mention having the charges against him dropped. But if he fails, he will get nothing and quite possibly will be returned to jail. With no opinions, Declan accepts – besides, how hard could watching a young woman and delivering her to her wedding possibly be?
Lady Helena Lark has used many strategies over the years to put off marriage to the duke – she knows he doesn’t want her, but their families want the land that her grandmother left her – the land that contains a summerhouse that she calls home, her apple orchard, a forest and tenants – all of which will be lost if she marries the duke. She is determined to end her betrothal and has the perfect plan – she will find a new duchess for the duke – because if he jilts her, her family will finally let her retire to her forest in peace. When she arrives in town, she is prepared for Girdleston’s spies – but even knowing isn’t enough to stop her immediate fascination with Declan. She has never felt even the slightest attraction to a man before – but she is drawn to Declan and hopes to win him to her side.
Helena waits until everyone is asleep and slips out to the stables to talk to Declan – he tries to resist, but he is just as taken with her as she is with him and cajoles him into helping her. And against his better judgement, he tells her he will help her and then to make matters worse – he kisses her. He is angry with himself and fully intends to resist her and to inform Girdleston of her plan – but he can’t and finds himself falling under her spell. But he has secrets and while he will help her, he can’t afford to lose his heart to her, but will he be able to walk away?
I really loved this story, it was a fun tale with a bit of a Snow White twist – Helena and Declan are both wonderful characters and I loved their interactions and dedication to each other – which never wavered, no matter how dismal things appeared. The story is well written, fast paced, filled with witty banter, schemes, secrets, surprising twists and turns, a couple of warm love scenes, great secondary characters and a very satisfying ending complete with a epilogue, The copy I read was an uncorrected proof, so I assume that the typos and title errors will be corrected by publication and did not factor them into my review rating. This is the first book in the new series and I am hooked – I highly recommend this book and am really looking forward to the next installment.
**I am voluntarily leaving a review for an uncorrected eARC that I requested and was provided by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.*