Inventor, businessman, and all-around eccentric Kevin Radnor is in a bind. He’s invented a device that will revolutionize the steam engine industry, only he needs the approval of the co-owner of the device. It had been his uncle, the duke, but after the duke’s untimely death the share had been willed to one Rosamund Jameson. The problem, no one knows who Rosamund Jameson is. That is until a chance encounter in a house of pleasure leads Kevin to Rosamund.
Eminently practical, Rosamund has managed to claw her way up the social ladder after facing near ruin. A successful milliner, she dreams of sending her younger sister to a fine school to improve her prospects while secretly, in her most hidden of hearts, she longs to reconnect with the man who she loved and lost so long ago. When she discovers she’s an heiress, she doesn’t meekly bow to the demands of the Radnor family to give up her share of Kevin’s business. Instead, she throws herself wholeheartedly into the business, disrupting Kevin’s carefully laid plans and stirring something in his eccentric heart.
I really enjoyed the first book of this series by Madeline Hunter, so when the ARC became available I jumped on it. The book did not disappoint. I found the romance charming and believable. The book featured several of my favorite tropes: marriage of convenience, falling for the enemy, and some mild hurt/comfort. It passed the Bechdel test and the Mako Mori test, the latter of which is often hard to find in romance. Look, it’s important for women to have character arcs that aren’t reliant on romance or childbearing.
The overall plot worked well and advanced the series arc plot regarding the mystery of the former duke’s death and why he left his fortune to these three women. It’s clear that we’re not going to get the answers yet, but it did touch on a few more possible suspects.
Kevin and Rosamund were unique characters I haven’t seen much in romance. Kevin showed all of the signs of being ADHD or Autistic but since this was set in the regency, those terms didn’t exist then. Instead he’s called socially inept and eccentric. But watching him become hyperfixated on the things in his life that bring him pleasure is sort of adorable. I don’t know if this was intentionally done by the author, but as someone who is neurodivergent it was nice to see a character who I could relate to and whose thought processes matched mine at times. Kevin is also tough to like at times, he’s an acquired taste – like the escargot they try in Paris.
He’s at times gruff, impulsive, judgmental, and also suspicious. But for all of his faults, he’s also kind, caring, considerate, and gentle. I liked him.
If I liked Kevin, I adored Rosamund. She’s a lovely ambitious woman whose kind heart and caring nature lead to both her successes and her failures. I liked that she was the steady hand to Kevin’s impulsiveness. I appreciated that she had goals of her own that had nothing to do with the romance or Kevin’s storyline. She was a great character who I wanted to see more of. And I really hope she shows up in the next book.
All of the characters from the first book make an appearance, which I appreciated. But you don’t have to read the first book to understand this one. That said, I feel like I liked the first book better. Probably because I adored Minerva so very much. I like competent heroines… and both Rosamund and Minerva are just that.
There are some content warnings that people need to be aware of… so spoilers for that: prostitution and discussion of prostitution, period appropriate sexism, period appropriate classism, sexual assault, physical assault, bullying, and others I probably missed/forgot. This book doesn’t shy away from the realities of the time and isn’t afraid to go to some darkish places.
In all I liked this book.
Four and a half stars – rounded up to five
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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.