A rude sword maker clashes with the spunky socialite who has been sent to drag him into the 21st century.
Portia Hobbs’ hard-charging parents can’t understand why she prefers acquiring graduate degrees and internships to joining the family business in New York. When she wins an internship to work with a master swordsmith in Scotland, Portia knows it’s a perfect way to put her art history background to good use. Where her parents see flighty selfishness, Portia sees opportunity and excitement. Her new boss, Tavish McKenzie, is a taciturn silver fox with a healthy skepticism of modernity. He’s gruff with Portia, who nevertheless manages to wield her social media and marketing savvy to raise Bodotria Armory’s profile. Portia is a charming blend of bravado and insecurity, a woman whose summer in Scotland will reveal her innate worth even if her skills are not the kind her family can appreciate. A brusque British artisan falling for a spoiled, spunky American is a familiar trope, but Cole (A Princess in Theory, 2018, etc.) invests it with complexity by giving Portia not just vulnerability, but a journey of self-discovery that includes strong female friendships. Another well-known romance trope, secret royalty, gets the same treatment. Tav’s mother was a Chilean refugee when she began an affair with his biological father, whom she left after he inherited a dukedom. Tav had always known the story, but he thought of his mother as a victim of a powerful man; learning now that she'd made her own choices, he has to make sense of a new origin story while grappling with an abrupt status shift from artisan to aristocrat. While Portia and Tav’s characters are irresistible and their culture-clash repartee is genuinely witty, their romance seems abrupt. A continued friendship with benefits seems just as likely as a happy-ever-after for these two, and while their relationship might eventually develop into something lasting, readers might appreciate a cameo by “Maid Freckles” and “#swordbae” in the next installment of the series, just to be sure.
An engaging cast of characters grapples with themes from family legacies to social media marketing while the romance between a gruff swordsmith and his unorthodox apprentice is more parry than attack.