This title is third in a Georgian series about three sons of a duke who is longing for some grandsons. I read the second book, A Sinful Deception, first (reviewed here), and liked it so well that I checked out the first book, A Wicked Pursuit. I was fairly eager to get my hands on the book about the youngest brother, Rivers. Did it meet my expectations?
THE PLOT: Backstage at the theater, Lord Rivers Fitzroy has been complaining to his friend about the lead actress’s lack of talent. When Rivers bets his friend that he could make anyone into a fine actress, his friend picks out Lucia di Rossi, a drab servant, as the person he must transform.
Lucia is the cousin of one of the dancers (Rivers’s former mistress), and acts as her maid. She is treated with contempt by her family because she failed as a dancer, but she has acting talent in spades. Agreeing to the bet gives her the opportunity to get away from her prima donna cousin and make something of herself. She and Rivers leave for his lodge in the country, where he will train her to speak properly and memorize Shakespeare.
Although it starts out as a purely platonic relationship, the two gradually learn about each other and fall in love. But to what end? Rivers is the son of a duke, and Lucia is, at best, an actress. In what possible circumstances could they defy convention and marry?
MY TWO CENTS: This is a sweet Pygmalion story that has readers rooting for the heroine from the start. Lucia knows she could be an actress if only she had the opportunity, and when fate throws that opportunity her way, she grabs it with both hands. As far as acting goes, she’s almost a little too perfect; you know the real tension of the story is going to be the romance, not whether Lucia is successful. Because of her obvious talent and Rivers’s gentle nature, the reader knows early on that the bet itself is kind of irrelevant.
And Rivers IS a nice guy. He has no problem telling Lucia he loves her. What he doesn’t get, though, is his ingrained classism. He assumes that once Lucia is his mistress, he’ll be buying her a house and jewels. He assumes he’ll be keeping Lucia on the side while marrying some highborn lady and trying to produce his father’s long-awaited grandson. And after all, the heir to a duke cannot have an actress for a mother. So up until almost the very last moment, the reader is wondering HOW this is ever going to resolve in the way romances must. The ending is gift-wrapped and tied up with a neat bow, almost to the point where I said, “Really? It was that easy?” So in some ways I felt like it was “suspense, suspense, suspense…oh, it’s over.”
BOTTOM LINE: A romance where the tension is created by social mores rather than a hero who’s afraid to fall in love. The heroine will have readers rooting for her. It may be resolved a little too neatly, but definitely worth the ride.
TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and e-formats.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.