I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
With her two younger sisters getting married, Elizabeth is starting to feel familial pressure to give up her notion of spinsterhood.
Julian may be a duke but the lofty title won't save him from penury.
A houseparty may be the final downfall for them both.
Third in the Windham Brides series, our oldest sister Elizabeth is the focus. New readers could comfortably start here as the story takes place in Wales, away from Elizabeth's large family clan that has previously starred in their own books. Family members are mentioned and our head of family Duke and Duchess make small appearances but nothing to make a newcomer feel lost.
What a lovely smile he had. A little off center, a bit conspiratorial, and---who would have thought?---a touch dashing.
Julian was teased a bit in the last book and I found myself very curious about this recluse duke with a treasure of books. It is quickly learned that his grandfather and father have spent more money than advisable on building their famous library and sent the family deep in debt, something Julian has been trying to fix for years. Most of the time historicals deal with the heroine's family in debt and selling her off and even when it’s the hero, it’s usually quickly solved with dowry. Burrowes gives us a deep portrayal of what being short of funds does to Julian; his quiet desperation as he tried to keep all his responsibilities afloat. The tenets livelihood, his sister, his brother, and the Haverford legacy were all dependent on him and gave the reader a deeper sense of what being a duke entailed; not all balls and gaming clubs. Julian was a quiet, deep, and weighty character.
For the gracious, unassuming Miss Windham hid volumes worth of indignation and passion beneath her quiet exterior.
Elizabeth was our strong, level headed, and yearning for more heroine I have come to enjoy from Burrowes. Elizabeth follows the rules but is also deeply angry that if she doesn't marry soon, her identity and worth would be boiled down to a "spinster". The little nuances Burrowes never fails to impart on her characters give them such a real and rich feel. The reasoning behind Elizabeth's love of books and the importance she places on them is revealed to have come from her feeling lost in such a large family and how she used it to gain a unique identity to be noticed. Elizabeth wants to be loved and seeing her vulnerability with Julian when she sees it could be possible with him was heartwarming.
This was how it was supposed to be between a man and a woman, both comfortable and daring, a private adventure.
Burrowes sometimes has a tendency to just have our couple connect or love right away, I thought she did a better job of having Elizabeth and Julian talk their way into it. Through their discussions we see Elizabeth testing Julian and Julian slowly coming alive as if Elizabeth is a shock to his system. As Elizabeth notes, Julian listens to her and their gentle teasing and probing one another made me sigh along in happiness.
One of Burrowes strongest talent is her ability to provide secondary characters to not only fill out the story but enhance it. Julian's brother, Griffin, has an intellectual developmental disability and their relationship and Griffin's struggle to have some independence and navigate the world he's in brings a wealth of emotion. Radnor has a beautifully showcased friendship with Julian along with a "just get together already" relationship with Julian's sister Glenys. There's also a small romance blooming for Elizabeth's aunt, a married couple trying to find each other again, and Elizabeth's sister Charlotte putting off some nice sparks with the villain of this piece working his way to redemption, Sherbourne, who look to be gearing up for their own story. Each character has a small part to play in the overall story but added such poignancy to the story.
The ramifications and worry over money is the center piece of this story with the characters emotions and relationships swirling around it. You'll get a great feel for the time period and descriptions of a castle that will have you dying to explore it. More importantly, the natural and flowing interactions and conversations with their little humorous spices, wit, sass, spark, and warmth will have you wishing this world and these characters Burrowes has created were real.
"I don't want to be the duke now, Elizabeth. I want to be solely and completely your lover."