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.
Wren has hidden herself away from the world but without her aunt and uncle, she has grown lonely. Deciding that her inheritance should be good for something, she decides to buy herself a husband.
Alexander was happy in his life but now finding himself an earl of an impoverished estate, his life has been turned upside down.
What starts off as a business proposition could end up being a fairy tale.
"I am twenty-nine years old, very nearly thirty, and I would like…someone to wed."
Third in the Wescott series we come to Alexander's story. The previous two books set the storyline of the previous Earl of Riverdale dying and exposing that his second marriage was bigamist. His three children are declared bastards while a daughter from the first marriage is found in an orphanage and suddenly legitimate. I did not read the previous two books and appreciated how Balogh smoothly and organically explained how Alexander became the Earl. Balogh relayed important information and characters but didn't info dump and in fact integrated all those previous characters into this story, creating a believable and familial world. You could feasibly start the series here.
Her instinct was to hide behind veils within veils, and she had done it for so long that she did not know how to cast those veils aside.
The star of this story and where most of the heavy emotional lifting comes from is our heroine Wren. She was born with a large birthmark covering half of her face and a mother who puts vanity above all else. When she is ten, her aunt takes her from her home and eventually she and her husband adopt Wren. Unfortunately, those important formative years with her cruel mother keep Wren from having any self-worth. Wren always wears a veil to cover her face unless around her aunt and uncle. When they die she becomes incredibly lonely and decides to buy a husband. Her new neighbor, the Earl of Riverdale, is third on her list for potential husbands but he may be just too good looking.
You'll feel awful for Wren as she uses an ice queen persona to keep her pain and self shielded. Balogh masterfully created a perfect hero for Wren in Alexander. He perfectly complements the situation by being wary of the heroine's pain but also acknowledges it; there are no quick simple solutions in this story. This wasn't even a slow burn but a slow thawing; you'll need to wait until around the half-way mark before our couple starts to really get moving.
I appreciated this building and forming of their relationship but I also thought the second half dragged on a bit. This is definitely not a "modern" historical, characters and mannerisms stay true to the time period, emotions and actions are a bit more constrained. While the larger cast of characters helped create a full world, it also stole away from my lead's romance more than I would have liked, the story had a tendency to slowly meander.
Alexander's sister and mother and how they engaged and tried to understand Wren brought such a wonderful warmth to the story; I love when women characters kindly engage with each other. Alexander and Wren were such intelligent characters but I did think Wren’s internal declaration of love felt a bit quick as I don't think the "special" connection with Alexander had been quite made yet, he was the first and only man to show her attention in her life.
A little slow and meandering towards the end but Wren will have you emotional and incredibly happy that she found the handsome Alexander.