Top critical review
I wanted to love this so much more than I did
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 15, 2022
Lady Jane Huxley has never fit in amongst the ton. She’s a shy, rather plain wallflower who prefers to spend her time reading than with most people. As such, she has few friends so when the roguishly charming Colin Lacey befriends her, Jane values that relationship. He’s nothing like his cold, overly proper older brother and they get along swimmingly, so when Colin asks for her help retrieving a stolen family heirloom, Jane agrees to steal it back. Unfortunately, Colin doesn’t value her friendship as she values his. He’s focused on winning a wager and his success threatens to ruin Jane and her younger sisters.
Harrison Lacey, the Duke of Blackmore, is compelled to ensure his family’s honor above all things, which means he must step in to fix his brother’s disastrous mistake, even if it means marrying Lady Jane himself. With her reputation in tatters and her sisters at risk, Jane has little choice but to agree to marry the arrogant duke, though she’s none too thrilled at the prospect of a lifetime spent with the coldest man in society. Only, as she spends more time in his proximity and an attraction begins to form between them, Jane begins to suspect that Harrison is not half so cold as he’d like everyone to believe.
I really thought I was going to love this book so much more than I did. A bookish, glasses-wearing heroine who’s not beautiful and a starchy duke who has to let loose a bit sounded perfect. I’m not sure what happened but I just never felt pulled into this store the way I expected to be. I liked Jane as a heroine, even if some of her decision-making was questionable, and I appreciated that she had a spine and eventually stood up for herself, especially since it became apparent that her husband wasn’t going to do it. I understood Harrison’s reasons for trying to protect Jane and how those actions made it seem like he had no faith in her. I think the main thing that didn’t work for me was that he had to be told what he was doing wrong and how he was hurting Jane and their relationship so many times before he finally changed his behavior. I wanted to see more of his heart melting on the page, preferably in scenes with Jane as well, but most of the focus was on him trying to keep his feelings locked down and this resulted in him being pretty snappy and rude to Jane. It was like the closer he got to her and the more he revealed his feelings, the meaner he was to her, which just seemed counterintuitive to me and not romantic in the way I was hoping it would be. I actually think there may have been more scenes of open communication between Jane and Colin than she had with Harrison, and I was just over Colin’s story arc at this point and not interested in him taking up more of this book. I’ll still read his book; I just didn’t necessarily want to read about him so much in Harrison’s book.
I related to Jane’s bookishness and difficulty making friends so much and I liked how she seemed to find herself a bit in her new role as duchess. Unfortunately, since she didn’t really have much support from Harrison in this and he remained arrogant, and very hot and cold with her. I will say I did like how obsessed Harrison was with Jane and how protective he was with her; I just didn’t care for the fact that this manifested as him trying to also protect her from himself. This undermined their chemistry for me because it always felt like Harrison was on a different level, perhaps slightly above Jane, and it was hard to make that coincide with feeling the romance between them when he always seemed to be treating her like a child. It definitely seemed like Harrison was being childish if anything, since he was so hung up on his childhood issues and determinedly carrying them on into his adulthood and allowing them to damage his relationship without ever asking Jane what she wanted from him. His childhood was too glossed over for that to really hold water for me. If anything, I would expect him to be suffering from the guilt of having killed a man in a duel fairly recently, but that was barely mentioned so it made it seem as if Harrison was crafting drama where it didn’t need to be.
I wanted actual communication between Harrison and Jane that wasn’t just him making assumptions about her feelings or talking down to her and sadly we never really got that. I loved how protective Harrison was over Jane, but this was pretty much negated by how unnecessarily mean and critical he was towards her. I understood his wanting to protect her from what he perceived as his dangerous levels of emotions, but this just wound up hurting her more and made him very inconsistent in his behavior toward her, rather than being someone she could depend on. He made improvements and then went right back to the same behavior, and I found that to be exasperating. This was just frustrating for me because the potential for an explosive passion was there and yet it never really felt like it came to fruition. I still love this author and her writing, but this book in particular didn’t really do it for me.