A young woman in Georgian London is determined to make her own way in the world by opening a coffee shop but must get around her wealthy and handsome landlord to do it.
The second book in Conkle's Midnight Meeting series (Meet the Earl at Midnight, 2014) opens with a daring housebreaking attempt by Claire Mayhew at the home of her landlord, Cyrus Ryland, the King of Commerce. Cyrus has ascended from humble working-class roots and is now wealthy enough to buy acceptance from the nobility. But in spite of having seven sisters, he’s a sexist idiot when it comes to women. “Women need a man’s strong, guiding hand,” he tells his friend. That’s why he refuses to let a woman sign the lease to any of his properties unless she has a husband, father or brother co-sign with her. When Claire fails to get his permission to rent a shop he owns, she sneaks into his house to find a signed document so she can forge his signature on the lease. Predictably, he catches her in his office and is fascinated by her. She escapes, only to leave behind a common work-a-day shoe on his front steps. When he tracks her down, they embark on a long flirtation while Claire feebly tries to hold onto her virtue. The book is an interesting twist on “Cinderella” in which the prince is actually a commoner like his elusive love. But the prose is painfully flowery (why say “Sustenance came sparing by choice” rather than “He hardly ate?”), and many of the lower-class characters are portrayed as being shifty and incompetent at their jobs.
This author is one to watch, especially if she's lucky enough to find a more hands-on editor.