A charming sequel to A Most Unlikely Duke (2017).
Unwed at the advanced age of 22, Lady Amelia is fully aware that her chances of making a good match are dwindling by the day. Her brother understands this, too, which is why he has asked his friend Thomas, Duke of Coventry, to help his sister find a husband before the season ends. Now, anyone who has ever read a Regency romance—or seen a Shakespeare comedy or watched a movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant—knows how this story will end, but that’s an essential element of the genre. No one reads Regency for cliffhangers and dramatic plot twists. The fun is in experiencing an old tale made fresh, and Barnes certainly delivers that. She wastes no time in establishing that her heroine and hero are attracted to each other, and the stumbling blocks on their way to happily-ever-after feel honest rather than contrived. Amelia isn’t just a woman of woefully advanced age; she is also a woman new to society, trying to adapt to her new station after a childhood of poverty and degradation, which ended when her brother unexpectedly inherited a title. Her desire for independence is complicated—she doesn’t want to marry without love, but she doesn’t want to be a lifelong burden on her brother, either—and she is discovering that shopping for bonnets and taking tea with the gentry don’t give her the same sense of purpose and accomplishment that caring for her brother and her sisters did. Her desire to do something meaningful turns into a plan that brings her into conflict with Thomas, but it also happens to fit with his own liberal (for his day) political leanings. This is all to say that Barnes creates early-18th-century characters that appeal to contemporary sensibilities without requiring strenuous suspension of disbelief. But this is still an entertainment—more Barbara Cartland than Elizabeth Gaskell—and there is real pleasure in seeing these characters joyfully united.
Well-crafted characters and an inventive plot.