What Happens in the Ballroom by Sabrina Jeffries
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Designing Debutantes, #2
Release Date: March 28, 2023
Nathaniel Stanton, the Earl of Foxstead is a man with a lot of responsibilities and a lot of secrets. After returning from the war and mourning the death of his mother, Nate needs to fulfill a deathbed promise he made to his commanding officer. A promise to see the man’s daughter, Jocelin, and her young son Jimmy taken care of, but to do that he will need help, so he turns to Mrs. Eliza Pierce, widow of his friend Samuel and co-owner of Elegant Occasions. Nathaniel has always thought Eliza is beautiful, but she seems even more so now and she is gracious when he reveals that he is the reason her husband ran off to war. The more time he spends with her, the more he wants, unfortunately, his secrets make it impossible to marry her right now, but he hopes Eliza will be able to help Jocelin find a husband so he can complete his promise to Jocelin’s father and then court Eliza and convince her to give marriage another try.
One husband was more than enough as far as Eliza is concerned, she is happy working behind the scenes of the business she and her two sisters started. When Nathaniel asks for her help launching his ward, she is happy to help the young widow but wonders about the relationship between Jocelin and Nathaniel, especially in relation to Jocelin’s young son. Nathaniel assures her that there is nothing going on, nor has there ever been anything between them. Eliza urges him to stay away from Jocelin, as it is clear the young woman has deeper feelings for him, and when Jocelin approaches them, Nathaniel pulls Eliza into a toe-curling kiss that Nathaniel says is for confirmation (that’s his story and he’s sticking to it). Upon seeing Jocelin’s reaction, he agrees to stay away but is more determined than ever to win Eliza. Eliza finds herself considering marriage again, but when she learns one of Nathaniel’s secrets from a third party, will she still be willing to trust him with her heart?
As always, Ms. Jeffries’s writing is impeccable and her characters are not only easy to relate to, they are easy to like. This book gives the eldest Harper sister a long overdue HEA with a man that has even more secrets than Geoffrey from the previous book did! I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I just had a hard time justifying Nathaniel’s deception to protect his secrets. I kept thinking, if he can’t trust her, how can he love her? Anyway, the book still delivered a great story with likable characters, a cute toddler, LOTS of secrets, some surprising twists, warm love scenes, familiar recurring characters, delightful new characters, more than one romance, and a sweet HEA complete with an epilogue. This is the second book in the series, but it can definitely 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.*