FINALLY! I’ve been watching the interactions between Nancy MacQueen and James (Jem) Redbourne in the previous books and just couldn’t wait for their HEA. It is finally here and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I loved how the author took us back in time to their initial meeting when they were young and then showed us what was going on behind the scenes in some of the interactions we’d witnessed in those earlier books. I absolutely adored Jem and loathed how Nancy treated him, so it was nice to get some background on her and learn why she reacted the way she did. To be honest, though, I thought her reaction to her background circumstances was a bit over-the-top, but I could see why it would make her wary. Jem was every bit as perfect and honorable as we thought he would be.
The last woman standing – yep – that is Nancy. With all of her former baking partners married and off living their HEAs, Nancy is the lone remaining baker at Belle’s Biscuit Shop. She misses her friends, but she loves baking the biscuits, running the shop, and having the upstairs living quarters all to herself. At least Henrietta and Sebastian (Unexpectedly Wed to the Officer) have chosen to stay in Bath, so Nancy isn’t completely without friends.
Nancy is a red-haired, freckle-faced, short-tempered, termagant. Her temper is legendary and only the bravest would cross her. Yet, with the people she lets in, she is sweet, gentle, loyal, and loving. Nancy was raised in the slum area of Bath by a downtrodden mother and drunken, gambling stepfather. From the age of six, she watched her beautiful, loving mother change into someone she didn’t even recognize. She went from a loving mother to someone who did nothing but find fault with Nancy. Her step-father totally cowed and dominated her mother and Nancy will never, ever allow that to happen to herself. She lumps all men into the same category as her step-father and will never, ever let one get near her in any way. The only person who MIGHT be different is Jem and no matter how nice he is or how much her pulse races when he’s near, she’ll not let him get close either.
Jem first met Nancy when she was fourteen – and he never forgot her. They’d cross paths every few months or years and the attractions were still there – at least on his part. He was quite sure there was no attraction on her part because she always rang a peal over his head any time they got near each other. She said hateful, mean, awful things to him. Finally, he knew he had to give up on her – she told him flat-out there would never, ever be anything between them. With his parents wanting him to marry, he decided to go with his mother’s choice for a wife. So, he proposed and was accepted. But … then … the very next day he learned that Nancy had changed her mind. GROOOOAN – why hadn’t he waited one more day?
The tale is lovely and Jem is so honorable he’ll give up his own happiness to keep his word. Is his betrothed as honorable as Jem is? Maybe not? Maybe so? You’ll just have to read it to see. It is an excellent read, very well written and the character growth is outstanding. I loved that all of the previous couples played roles in this story, but they didn’t take over and overpower it.
I believe this is the last book in the series, and it did a very nice wrap-up for the series. The epilogue takes place 8 years later (in 1815) and shows the couples and their children. It was a very nice wrap-up and I felt I knew the ‘whole story’ for all of them and could rest easy that their HEA was a lasting one.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.