A Gilded Age marriage of convenience that inconveniences everyone involved.
Lady Christina Barclay is desperate to escape her family, Brits temporarily in New York in search of a rich husband for her. But she’s not so desperate that she’ll accept the elderly letch Mr. Van Peet as her husband, no matter how her parents beg her to do so. She tries to find solace with Oliver Hawkes, her neighbor, but the reclusive inventor prefers to keep to himself. After losing his hearing as a teen, he’s found that despite his extraordinary wealth, most of the Four Hundred prefer to treat him as “one of those imbeciles.” However, after learning more about Christina's situation, Oliver agrees to help her out by getting married that very night, telling her it will be a yearlong, nonsexual marriage after which he will give her a financial settlement, they will annul the marriage and go back to being friends; despite his attraction to her, he's reluctant to change his ways and doesn't believe that she really wants to marry him, either. For her part, Christina is attracted to Oliver, especially as she learns more about how to communicate with him and they begin to share the details of their pasts with one another. But as their mutual focus narrows to each other, they don’t notice how many people around them seek to pull them apart—by any means necessary. The suspense in this story doesn’t come just from the sexual tension between its hero and heroine—it also comes from their shared fear that people will use Oliver’s deafness to ruin their developing bond. Shupe’s Four Hundred series has been marked by its appealing combination of suspense and spice, and the third entry is no exception, standing out thanks to Shupe’s thoughtful portrayal of deafness and a culture that does not understand or respect it. As always, precise Gilded Age details invigorate Shupe’s writing, but it is the chemistry between Oliver and Christina that truly brings the story to life.
A fast-paced story with a surprisingly modern feel from an expert writer of historical romance.