Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Standalone (?)
Release Date: December 27, 2022
For the last ten years, Julia Beaumont has lived quietly in the country, at the beck and call of her stepmother and she has come to believe that her dreams of love and marriage were nothing more than fairy tales, but when her stepmother is ill and cannot attend a ball with her much younger step-sister, Susannah, Julia jumps at the chance to chaperon her, knowing this may be her last chance to attend a ball and find a husband. But instead of a husband, she finds a potential scandal and if that wasn’t bad enough, she also loses a shoe when she makes her escape!
Gregory Carter, the Duke of Ashworth, is bored and tired – being England’s most sought-after rake is exhausting, but he is sick of women trying to slip into his bed and their husbands trying to kill him. So he is both surprised and intrigued when he is rescued from yet another bored wife bent on seduction and her husband bent on shooting Gregory in yet another duel, by a gorgeous woman who is completely unknown to him. His surprise is increased when he learns she is unwed and when she slips away leaving him with nothing but her name and her shoe!
Gregory tracks her down the next day to return her shoe, sure that she won’t be as intriguing in the light of day. But to his delight, she is not only as lovely as he remembered but witty and smart too and when she proposes they marry to save her reputation and to save him from the bored wives looking to join the “Carter Club”, he surprises both of them by agreeing! But Gregory believes that no woman could ever love him and has no desire to fall for Julia and be rejected, so he is firm that this will not be a real marriage and that he will be leaving for Spain within days of the wedding, Julia agrees as there is no way she will let herself feel anything for him when she knows he is a rake and could never love her. But as they say, the best-laid plans…
I loved this book, it was well-written, nicely paced and so much fun to read. Gregory and Julia are wonderful characters, easy to like and delightful to read, they both have experiences in their pasts that have shaped them and led them to believe they are unlovable, they also have a strong sense of self-perseveration and a healthy helping of pride, therefore will never let themselves fall in love thus opening themselves up to rejection – so their road to HEA is definitely not a smooth ride! This book has wonderful characters, witty banter, engaging dialogue, great secondary characters, steamyish love scenes, the “Carter Club”, a dash of heartache and a sweet ending, and a charming epilogue. I highly recommend this story – I am leary of “fairytale” retellings, but this one is outstanding, it is also one of the best debuts I have ever read and I can’t wait to read the next book this author writes!
*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.*