Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: A Lady to Suit, #2
Release Date: August 23, 2021
Widowed Hebe Locke artist is thrilled when the Duke of Rothwell, her patron, commissions her to paint his hunter. He tells her he will not be in attendance, but she is welcome to stay at Wychmere Castle in the Cotswolds as long as she likes and he will even encourage his neighbors to let her sketch their horses as well. It is a dream come true for her and for the first time in quite a while, she feels excited.
Lord Ernest Brooke, younger brother of Casper, the Duke of Rothwell, is a renowned rake and the complete opposite of his straightlaced brother. He knows that everyone considers him irresponsible and useless, but he wants to change that perception, he has taken over the breeding program at Wychmere Castle and hopes to soon establish his own stud farm and prove to Casper that there is more to him than just a careless rake. He has worked hard and seen promising results, but has recently suffered a setback – a horse, Sir Oswald has gone missing and he is sure that he was stolen. He is equally sure that Casper will blame him. Much to his surprise, his brother doesn’t blame Ernest and supports his decision to go to the castle and investigate, but he warns Ernest that he will not be alone, that Mrs. Locke and her aunt Mrs. Cassell and tells him to leave them alone. Ernest is thrilled, he is intrigued by Hebe Locke and longs to get to know her, despite her obvious revulsion to him.
Hebe learns that Ernest will be traveling to the castle the night before they are set to leave and is not happy. She is annoyed that he will be there but is even more annoyed that she is attracted to him. Her late husband, Tobias was a rake and wooed her with tenderness and sweet words, making her fall head over heels in love and believing that he loved her in return, but as soon as their vows were spoken, his true character was revealed and the next few years were hell for Hebe. Even after he died, she was plagued by nightmares and insecurities, so much so that she has vowed to never love or marry again. A vow she has had no problem keeping until she met Lord Ernest. She just needs to remind herself that he is no different than Tobias and that he will use her and discard her. But this position gets harder to keep when he keeps proving her assumptions about him wrong. Is it possible for a broken heart to heal and love again? Is Ernest truly the caring, thoughtful man he has shown himself to be and is she willing to trust him, or will she hold fast to her vows to spend her life alone?
This was a well-written and interesting story with wonderful characters and an intriguing mystery. Ernest and Hebe are well-defined characters that are easy to understand and relate to, especially since the author does such a great job giving the reader their backstory and their internal musings, thus making the reader feel like they “know” them as this slow-burn romance plays out. In addition to their romance, there is also a very well-done secondary romance as well as the mystery regarding the disappearances of several horses and who is seemingly trying to scare Hebe away and why. I did enjoy this book, but I did feel that some parts of the story were a bit too drawn out and I was hoping for a bit more steam between Hebe and Ernest. But considering Hebe’s past, I did understand the author’s decision to tone down the physical romance scenes. Overall, this was a very enjoyable read about a wounded heroine and hero who has a heart of gold. It is a book that I would happily recommend and while it is the second book in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone title.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*