I laughed so often while reading this book, even though it did have its moments of angst and sadness. Bethany Bennett had some amazing one-liners thrown in that had me highlighting in my ereader often. I loved the older brother point-of-view shown at the beginning, when the hero sees his sister dancing with a gentleman. It was adorable and so relatable! What I noticed in the first book of this series that carried on to the second was how fun and unique the characters were, not just with the main characters but the others as well. Another ongoing theme was terrible fathers - my goodness, was no father a decent man back in the day? In the first book, the heroine's father was awful, and in this book, the hero's father decided to step up and claim the top spot for awful human being. Imagine - gambling away your son's hand in marriage...for a horse. A HORSE.
Calvin, Earl of Carlyle, is in a pickle. His wastrel father made a bet and lost, and now Calvin must marry a baron's daughter whom he has never met. Seeking comfort with his good friend, Adam Hardwick, he tries to think of a way out of his father's scheme. His life is complicated enough with his sister's debut and warding off the worst of men from pursuing her, and then the unexpected happens. Adam is attacked by street thieves, and when Cal goes to his aid, he learns that he is a she - Adam is really Ophelia. Ophelia took on her twin brother's name 11 years ago after his death, out of desperation to save her life and escape an arranged marriage by her uncaring uncle. On the run and in hiding as a man, she has learned to blend in with the men and has valued her friendship with Cal. Of course, her feelings for him run a bit deeper than friendship, and when Cal realizes she is a woman, his feelings develop as well. But Ophelia is not out of danger, in spite of the passing of time, and she must maintain her status as a man until she turns 25 and is free from her uncle's control. If they want to pursue their feelings for each other, they must do it in secret...as two men.
Cal was a hilarious hero, bumbling his way through life making all sorts of small yet entertaining errors. We see it in the first chapter, when he accidentally forgot the name of his friend's deceased sister and joked that "sisters are the bane of a man's existence." Ouch, Cal, ouch. Also, his handling of his sister was just terrible - he wanted to protect her, but instead of trying to educate her on the perils of society, he let her run roughshod over him and ended up trying to pay off a suitor he knew was up to no good. Poor Cal needed a keeper, and thankfully he had Adam/Ophelia. Ophelia had a tough time since she was 13 and almost sold off to an old man in marriage. Forced to dress, talk, walk, and act like a man, she never had the experience of being a woman to help guide her when the time came to don a dress instead of pants. When she is found out, I expected Cal to be more upset by the discovery, but they were such good friends, he took it all in stride. He recognized that, man or woman, this was his friend, and he needed to support her. Cal immediately went into protector mode when he realized she was in danger, and I loved that side of his personality. He may not have been the most coordinated man alive, but he was always genuine and kind. There was a drama towards the end that was frustrating, and I found the whole miscommunication to be entirely unnecessary. But it was also typical Calvin behavior. Like I said - he needed a keeper.
I continue to really enjoy Bethany's books - always funny, always entertaining, and always a good read from start to finish. I'm excited to read what I imagine will be Cal's sister's book next. The hellion herself. Should be exciting!
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**