I read this series backwards, so I definitely had an interesting viewpoint of this story based on my prior knowledge of all the characters' storylines! While normally I wouldn't recommend this, it worked for me. This is the first of three books so far, and each book follows the story of a Hayward sibling, working for a living and doing what they love. Each book is so rewarding, and this one was no exception. A story of learning one's faults, owning to one's mistakes, and letting go of the past to embrace the future.
Clara Hayward was deemed a "wallflower" and "spinster" by society long ago, due to her inherent intelligence and her disinclination to adhere to social conventions. Instead of husband hunting and creating a family, she has been the headmistress of the Haverhall School for Young Ladies, giving young women the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that allows freedom. While teaching them skills that society expects them to learn, she also privately allows a select few to learn a trade. They may never be able to use it in their daily lives, but for one brief moment in time, they can feel just as important as a man. Ten years ago, Clara danced with August Faulkner, a scoundrel who was known to be loose with his affections. However, after gaining a dukedom, he has built up a business empire and focused on a better life for his sister. His latest acquisition? Haverhall. Except he hasn't told Clara and now more than money is at stake. His heart is as well.
August was an interesting hero, because it took him a very long time to realize what he was doing wrong. He walked around with tunnel vision, focused on his end goal but not seeing who he bulldozed over in the process of obtaining it. Quite a lot had to occur for him to see the error of his ways, which made an awkward transformation for him. He had good intentions, but so many bad things in this world happen in the name of "good intention." Clara helped August see that there was more to life than money, particularly when he was ruining other lives to obtain more of it. Clara had experienced heartbreak before, and she had no desire to experience it again. No one ever wanted her for just...her. Until August came along. By then she had her own blinders on, and it took time for her to also see that while he might be a flawed man, he was also a kind one whose heart rested in her hands.
Kelly Bowen remains a very popular author for me to recommend, especially with the Devils of Dover series. Highly recommend! The best part is there are already three books published and a novella coming soon.
**I received a free copy from the publisher and this is my honest review.**