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.
He’d been desired before, but never with that look. She thought him noble.
He stumbled back a step.
Fourth in the Cavensham Heiresses series, we finally get Paul Barstowe, the Duke of Southart's story. He is the friend of the previous heroes of the series who has become the outcast due to circumstances out of his control and of his own making. Our heroine Daphne is the younger sister to one of the previous heroes and she has always held a tendre for Paul. When Daphne ends up accidentally being home alone during Christmas time and desperately searching for her stolen diary, Paul ends up partnering her on the adventures.
Even if you haven't read the previous books in the series, there wouldn't much of a problem starting here. The author does a good job of relaying the how and why of past relationships, there would be a missed deeper connection but Daphne and Paul's relationship is the main focus of the story and that starts in this book. Paul's history is a little bit of wrong place, wrong time with some ill gotten luck, his father was cold to him and while he had a loving relationship with his brother, that brother is now deceased. His two closest friends are still wary and cold to him but since obtaining the title of Duke, he has been working hard to make something of himself.
Daphne is surrounded by happy marriages and is starting to get tired of hiding in the shadows as a way to not cause problems as she didn't want to upset anyone after her sister died. When she gets left alone, she finds it a perfect opportunity to get her life in order. I liked the premise of these two coming together, enjoyed a few flashbacks to how she and Paul interacted in their younger years but the physical attraction started immediately and was the focus throughout the vast majority of the story.
I feel like I'm beginning to notice a trend in historical romance where there is an insistence to feature blowjobs. The first one featured here isn't between the hero and heroine but the heroine's desire to watch and want and the heroine's second sexual encounter with the hero where she does the act, felt out of place in this. I, personally, read historicals for a different feel on the romance between the heroine and hero, I like the focus to be more on the words or feelings and not physical acts in the bedroom. I'm not saying this can never work for me but, here, it didn't.
I also like to read historicals for the time period feel and as Daphne and Paul never venture from about three locations, her house, a gaming hall, and his house, I couldn't even tell you within ten years when this story was supposed to take place. I like character driven stories, with the thread of wanting to find Daphne's diary, this story was mainly focused on Daphne and Paul but they never ventured from Paul finding Daphne gorgeous but constantly and morosely thinking he wasn't good enough for her and Daphne wanting Paul, with her wanting to stem only from him being nice to her when she was younger and his good looks. There was also a lot of repetitiveness, with Daphne being close to TSTL with insisting on putting herself in obviously dangerous (reputation wise) situations, Paul objecting but then eventually going along with her, so much rinse and repeat.
There just wasn't enough meat to this story to keep me actively involved, I felt like I was passively reading because all our main characters did was lust (kind of lukewarm meandering lust, at that) and our hero was a little bit of an Eeyore about how he wasn't good enough. I've read the first in the series (debut) by this author and thought she had good promise and then really enjoyed the second, but this one felt like a lackluster phone in. I do, however, find the cover to still be as gorgeous as ever.