An earl is forced to play matchmaker for the daughters of a rake in a smart and witty new Regency romance from the national bestselling author of The Scoundrel’s Daughter.
Recently returned to England, Leo, the new Earl of Salcott, discovers he’s been thrust into the role of guardian to an heiress, the daughter of a notorious rake. Even worse, his wealthy ward has brought her half-sister, the beautiful but penniless Isobel, with her. Leo must find Clarissa a suitable husband, but her illegitimate half-sister, Izzy, is quite another matter. Her lowly birth makes her quite unacceptable in London’s aristocratic circles.
However, the girls are devoted to each other and despite the risk of scandal if Izzy’s parentage is discovered, they refuse to be separated. To Leo’s frustration, nothing will convince them otherwise. Even worse, sparks fly every time Leo and Izzy interact.
Called away to his country estate, Leo instructs the young ladies to stay quietly at home. But when he returns, he’s infuriated to discover that Izzy and Clarissa have launched themselves into society — with tremendous success! There’s no going back. Now Leo must enter society to protect Clarissa from fortune hunters, and try not to be driven mad by the sharp-witted, rebellious, and intoxicating Izzy.
Anne Gracie is the award-winning author of the Marriage of Convenience, Chance Sisters, and Brides of Bellaire Gardens romance series. She started her first novel while backpacking solo around the world, writing by hand in notebooks. Since then, her books have been translated into more than sixteen languages, and include Japanese manga editions. As well as writing, Anne promotes adult literacy, flings balls for her dog, enjoys her tangled garden, and keeps bees. Learn more online at annegracie.com.
Tracy’s rating: 3.5/4 of 5 stars
Series: Brides of Bellaire Gardens, #2
Release Date: July 26, 2022
The last thing Josiah Leonard “Leo” Thorne, the sixth Earl of Salcott expected to hear upon his return from an extended tour of Europe was that he has inherited the wardship of the daughter of one of his father’s debauched friends! It is clear that Sir Bartleby Studley intended Leo’s father to be the guardian of his daughter but accidentally named Leo instead. And if that was not bad enough, he learns that Miss Clarissa Studley will be arriving with her illegitimate sister Isobel “Izzy” (who Sir Bartleby warned him about), in a matter of days. Aside from the fact that his London house is being renovated, as a bachelor, there is no way he can have two unmarried women living with him! He speaks to his Aunt Olive, Lady Scattergood, and asks if the girls could stay with her, she agrees but makes it clear she will not be able to launch them into society since she rarely leaves her home. He is relieved and believes that once the girls arrive, he will set down the rules, find Clarissa a husband, pay Isobel to disappear, and then get back to his well-ordered life.
Clarissa and Izzy have been inseparable for the last ten years, ever since her mother died and she was practically left on Sir Bartleby’s doorstep. Sir Bartleby refused to acknowledge Izzy and wanted to send her to an orphanage, but Clarissa stood up to him and demanded to keep her sister, and she did! But out of spite, Sir Bartleby refused to leave Izzy any kind of support when he died and even wrote a letter saying she wanted to be a courtesan! When they arrive, Leo is immediately attracted to Izzy, which bothers him, since he believes she is an immoral woman. He takes them to his aunt and explains to them that only Clarissa will be given a season and that because of her “irregular birth” Izzy is not allowed to mingle with the ton, he then asks to speak to Izzy alone and offers her a house and modest annuity to leave and never see Clarissa again – an offer that she flatly refuses. The girls are immovable, they will not be separated and they will both have a season. Leo refuses to even consider it and won’t let them attend any gatherings until they agree that Izzy cannot take part. But when he is called away, the girls launch themselves, to great success and when he returns, there is nothing Leo can do except go along with it. He then revises his plan, he will marry off both girls before the ton realizes they have been duped, but that is easier said than done when it is clear that he wants Izzy for his own!
I liked this story, but I didn’t love it, it is well-written and paced well, but I found the relationship between Leo and Izzy a bit hard to believe, especially as Leo was so changeable in his interactions and feelings for Izzy. Overall the book was entertaining and the relationship between Clarissa and Isobel is heartwarming and lovely, the secondary characters are wonderful and the reader gets to revisit Alice, Lord Tarrant, the girls, and Daisy Chance, as well as meeting a host of new characters, there are secret kisses, scandal, warmish love scenes, a bit of heartache and finally a HEA including an epilogue. This is the second book in the series, but it could certainly be read as a standalone title with no problems.
*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.*