I have been thoroughly enjoying this series. Eli has been my very favorite supporting character from the beginning, so I have been waiting – not very patiently – for his story, and it is finally here with the absolutely perfect match for him. You can totally read this as a standalone, but I have absolutely no idea why you’d want to. If you don’t know the ‘backstory’ to the series, it is definitely a unique one. The previous Earl of Clarion was a real piece of work – in the most unflattering ways. He was cruel, overbearing, abusive, uncaring, and he left a plethora of illegitimate children scattered across the countryside. Those children share something other than a father – they ALL have the red hair and green eyes for which the Caulfield ancestors have been famous. When his legitimate children both challenged him – in different ways – he changed his will to spite them. Since he couldn’t keep his son from inheriting the title or the entailed properties, he paupered the earldom by leaving all of the unentailed property, monies, and valuables to his illegitimate children – and he left absolutely nothing to his legitimate daughter. However, it seems there was one illegitimate child about which he didn’t know, and she is our female lead in this story. You will adore her – she is strong, smart, loyal, practical, loving, and nobody’s fool. She might be a tiny little thing, but she is a warrior at heart.
Frances Hancock has certainly been treated shoddily by the men in her life – but she is neither resentful nor bitter about it. She is, however, determined that her natural father provides her with help in some way. If he doesn’t, she and her two half-siblings will be out of food and a home without a farthing to help them recover. She cannot allow that to happen and she determines to travel from Manchester to Ashmead to confront the man who sired her and then ignored both her and her mother. When she arrives, tired and bedraggled from travel, she learns that the earl who fathered her has died and the estate doesn’t have any obligation to assist her in any way. Oh! No! All is not lost because the new earl is as good and the old one was bad. He’ll help if he can, but he has little with which to offer that help.
Eli Benson has been in each of the books and I’ve loved him in each. Eli is everybody’s go-to person. Whatever the problem or issue – the answer is – Mr. Benson will fix it. Yes, he is definitely a fixer. Eli isn’t the typical hero of which young girls dream. No, he’s ordinary looking, not overly tall, with regular brown hair and eyes, not gifted with athletic prowess. Eli is just the most amazing man. While he isn’t the typical hero-type – I’m betting he is the type of man we all end up choosing for ourselves in the end. He’s loyal, steadfast, highly intelligent, compassionate, loving – well – you name it and Eli is all of those good things. So, when a lovely young woman with Caulfield hair and eyes shows up on the earl’s doorstep, he is all empathy. He knows, however, that the estate absolutely cannot afford any financial gifts to the young lady. He also knows the earl will probably want to do something and it will be up to him to figure out what and how.
Eli elects to travel back to Manchester with Fanny in order to try to sort out her most immediate problems – namely having her property foreclosed leaving her and her siblings destitute. Goodness – all fury breaks out from that point forward – we have kidnappings, rescues, highwaymen, debauched potentates, slave trade, human trafficking and so much more. There is plenty of action – and plenty of romance – and – dare I say it – jealousy.
I definitely recommend this book and this series. It is excellently written, the plot is interesting, the timing is perfect, and – well – I already told you the characters are absolutely perfect for each other. Read it – you won’t regret it.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.