It is always a pleasant surprise reading a Christina Britton novel, because I never know where the story will lead or what new characters I will get to meet along the way. She tied this book in nicely with the previous books in the series, without focusing too much on the other couples, which can sometimes happen in a series. I often prefer reading books where each book in the series has a clear focus on the new couple, and Christina does a wonderful job of that. We still see the previous couples and get to enjoy their personalities and their lives together, but we branch off to explore the new romance blossoming. I have a particular weakness for wounded heroes, especially ones who don't feel they are worthy of love, so the hero in this book was perfect for me. Both physically wounded and traumatized by the events of the war, he had a lot of healing to do, and it was lovely seeing that as the story progressed. The heroine is a widow with no children, still in deep mourning, which made this romance especially tense and full of a friends with benefits feel. If that is your jam, you are going to love this book.
When blackmail comes to Mrs. Margery Kitteridge's door, she is shocked and appalled at the allegations made towards her late husband. Worried that others will believe the lies, and unwilling to ask for help from her friends and reveal to them the contents of the letter, she begins to wonder how she is going to come up with money to pay off this awful person. Enter Daniel Hayle, Duke of Carlisle - the son of her grandmother's friend and a new guest in their home. Daniel is a former military captain, having fought in the war and coming close to death at Waterloo. Haunted by his past, and saddled with the task of creating an heir for the dukedom, he has come with his mother to help her heal from the passing of his elder brother and prepare to find a wife, any wife. Margery is roped into helping him, and seeing his ineptitude at navigating social niceties, she offers him a deal. She will help him find a wife there, on the Isle of Synne, by the end of the month, in exchange for one hundred pounds. Daniel agrees, unknowing why she needs such a large sum, and soon they are spending more time together as she introduces him to the eligible young women. Still in deep mourning for her husband, Margery has no intention of marrying again...so why does it bother her so much every time she thinks about Daniel with another woman?
This relationship was definitely one of the most complicated I have read about, for a number of reasons. Daniel is adamantly opposed to being with someone for love, and he has no intention of feeling anything at all for his wife beyond perhaps mild affection. Which is why it's so odd for him when he begins to feel things for Margery that he never expected. Margery, on the other hand, has vowed to all who can hear her that she will never marry again. Four years since her husband passed, she still wears her wedding ring, dresses in half mourning colors, and has felt no inclination to be with a man. Until Daniel, that is. It was interesting seeing their relationship develop, as they thought scratching the itch would solve things, and, as we romance readers know, that never works. I was surprised how much guilt Margery felt, and she clearly had healing of her own to deal with, made evident by how long her reluctance to be with Daniel lasted. This is not a romance that is wrapped up neatly with a bow, and there is quite a lot of tension, hidden feelings, and burning beneath the surface. There are also several content warnings, which Christina Britton kindly provides on her website, and I recommend you check those out in case of any potential triggers. Overall, this story was a lovely one focused on redemption and healing. As always, I leave this book feeling like I have learned something, not just about other people but about myself.
One side character I adored was Miss Denby - her comic relief throughout the story was so welcome and hilarious. I hope she gets her own book at some point. I can't wait to meet the man she is meant for.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**