This book two in a series – something not on the cover. As is becoming a regular occurrence for me, I have not read the first. Based on the ending of this one, there’s likely a third brewing somewhere. This does serve as a standalone, however, and there aren’t many issues with knowing what came before except a few passages that are explained/thought about by the characters.
Philippa York, the daughter of a well off but untitled family, is an intellectual and rapidly reaching her sell by date. Her mother is furious that she failed to marry a duke – this occurred in the last book, and there is enough context given here to understand at least that it didn’t go through. What’s a mother in Regency England to do? Work on finding her someone else to marry, who has a title and money, of course. For her part, Philippa despairs of finding a man who stirs anything within her.
Tommy (Thomasina) Wynchester is a master of disguises and has been pining for Philippa for at least a year. They apparently met during the previous book, but Tommy didn’t have the guts to talk to her. These days, Tommy disguises herself as Aunt Wynchester, a regular attendee at Philippa’s salons. Tommy is much braver when dressing up as someone else, and decides to dress up as Lord Vanderbean. While riding in the park, she speaks to Philippa and her mother, charming Philippa and at least not causing her mother to go ballistic.
Successful in the enterprise, Tommy continues to act as Tommy, and enters into a bargain with Philippa: Tommy will help Philippa find a suitable, titled man to marry by pretending that Tommy is wooing Philippa – after all, many people want most what it seems they can’t have.
This works about as well as one might think, and eventually the charade breaks down, with Philippa rightfully accusing Tommy of deceiving her and Tommy not able to offer up much of a defense other than she wanted to be close to Philippa because she loved her.
There’s a subplot that exists only to scuttle Philippa’s engagement to a man with a title her mother approves of, involving the breaking of a cipher, done by one of the members of Philippa’s salon and the credit for which is claimed by her cousin, the man to whom Philippa is now engaged. The entire Wynchester family gets involved to help gather the evidence to prove it is not his prize to claim. I’d have liked more on this, but it’s a romance primarily, not a mystery.
Readers of Regencies in particular and romances in general will probably like this quite a bit. Ridley is a well-known historical romance author and knows how to weave a tale. My only real quibble is that the Wynchester clan doesn’t seem to have a dud among the bunch, and Tommy herself doesn’t seem to have many, if any, flaws beyond a crippling sort of stage fright as it relates to speaking to Philippa as herself and not Lord Vanderbean. Other than that, she’s confident in everything that doe does.
For those who worry about such things, there are several sex scenes in the book; they are not terribly explicit, but if you like your sex scenes to be off the page, you may want to skip those pages.
Overall, a solid four out of five stars.
Thanks to Forever/Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for the reading copy.