Overview by Author:
Responsible, practical Miss Hermione Rogers, has been crafting stories as the notorious Mr. Michael Michaelmas and selling them for a meager wage to support her siblings. The only real way to ensure her family’s ruinous debts are paid, however, is to marry. Tall, thin, and plain, she has no expectation of success. In London for her first Season she seizes the chance to write the tale of a brooding duke. In her research, she finds Sebastian Fitzhugh, the 5th Duke of Mallen, who unfortunately is perfectly affable, charming, and so nicely… configured… he takes her breath away. He lacks all the character traits she needs for her story, but alas, any duke will have to do.
Sebastian Fitzhugh, the 5th Duke of Mallen has been deceived so many times during the high-stakes game of courtship, he’s lost faith in society women. Yet, after a chance encounter with Hermione, he finds himself intrigued. Not a woman he’d normally consider beautiful, the young lady’s practical bent, her forthright nature and her tendency to turn up in the oddest places has his interests… roused. He’d like to trust her, he’d like to do a whole lot more with her too, but should he?
I really love Christi Caldwell. She is just so consistent that when I get a book of hers, I know that I am going to get a story that meets all my criteria for a great read. Her stories contain exquisite emotions, a healthy dose of reality and amazing characters. Her latest is no exception to her track record.
The story centres on Hermione and Sebastian. The two of them dance around each other and like moths to a flame, just can’t stay away. Neither can they admit the truth of the real reasons they keep coming back. Their circumstances are so different in the world they inhabit. This is not the classic poor girl meets rich man; it’s so much deeper than that.
Hermione has come to London for the season to make a match. She must make a match as her entire family is counting on the funds a new, wealthy husband will bring. After her mother’s death, her father stopped parenting and the role fell to Hermione. Her elder sister has special needs and has been ruthlessly taken advantage of. Her younger siblings need parenting as well as a future that isn’t bleak. Hermione has been writing Gothic novels as a way to make money to support the family. The titles of her books had me in stitches – The Entrapped Earl, The Bitterest Baron’s Bittersweet Love. She has been charged with writing a book about a nefarious duke. Once she meets Sebastian, with all his golden charm, she wants to write a different duke story.
What I adored about this book was that Hermione wanted to get to know Sebastian as “research”, but the more she was around this golden Adonis, the more she wanted to know the man. Her writing changed as she wrote about a charming and dashing man, not a foul tempered and angry duke. Every experience she had with Sebastian fueled her writing, but it also fed her soul. She fell for the man that Sebastian was, rather than the title. Her family’s hopes are high since a duke has shown interest, but Hermione just wants to enjoy the dalliance with Sebastian.
Sebastian is exactly the kind of character you hope to get when you open the pages of a book. He’s a good and decent man. He knows he needs to marry to get the requisite heir, but he can’t help wanting to marry a woman who wants him and not his title. He also wonders about love. He has seen it in the marriages of those close to him, yet the thought of it scares him. Sebastian is so intrigued by Hermione, he can’t stay away. He loves sparring with her, kissing her and watching her adroitly avoid potential suitors thrown her way by her horrid aunt. The more Sebastian gets to know Hermione, the more he wants her. She has a refreshing way of getting through to him and seeing the world. She isn’t silly or vapid and he adores that she takes care of her siblings – even though her brother Hugh is a major pain in the ass. Sebastian has pride, but deep down he is a really decent man. He is on the cusp of offering for Hermione after the startling revelation that he loves her.
And then…a big problem. Usually when authors throw that curve into a romance story you know that all will turn out fine. I think what sets Christi Caldwell apart from others, is the incredible emotionally pull she creates. I was devastated that the fragile and special relationship between the two was damaged. I understood why Sebastian was so angry and Hermione was so devastated. I hurt for both of them. As Hermione was writing her duke story, it was like she was writing her own destiny. I wanted Hermione to have a happy ending.
All too often, you read stories where the lead male character has a ton of flaws. Sebastian has flaws, such as his pride and stubbornness, but he is a really good man. I think that was what I liked so much about this story. Both characters are really honourable people who deserve happiness. The sad moments made me appreciate the beautiful relationship they had together.
It’s rare that a book moves me to tears, but they fell reading this lovely story. They weren’t tears of sadness, but rather just emotion from the feelings the story evoked. This is a really special story due to the well written and developed characters. The book is out now and I highly recommend adding it to your list.