Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, is in a bit of a pickle. For the last two years, he’s been telling his matchmaking mama about his fiancée, Minerva. A fiancée who is quite fictional. Now his mother is traveling from America to meet this estimable woman… a woman who doesn’t exist. But when Hugh intervenes in a conflict between an artist and her deadbeat client, he comes up with a wonderful plan – have this woman, whose name happens to be Minerva, pretend to be his fiancée for the holidays. It’s perfect!
Minerva Merriwell is in dire straits. Her mother died years ago. Her father abandoned them when she was a teenager. Now with her middle sister newly out of a job and clients refusing to pay her for her commissions, she needs money and fast – else she and her sisters will be out on the streets. Salvation comes in the form of a handsome nobleman who not only convinces her client to pay her but also wants to hire her. Not for her talent with a paintbrush, but to pretend to be his fiancée. It’s enough money to keep her family housed and fed for a year. How hard could this be?
They only have to pretend to be besotted with each other…. nothing needs be real. Except that’s not how it turns out.
Virginia Heath is a new-to-me author and I’m going to have to check out her other works because this book was delightful. It’s a light strangers-to-lovers romp that features situations that wouldn’t be out of place in an Austen novel. In a way, this book reminds me of Emma or Sanditon, and I loved that. This is a pure romantic comedy with the usual comedy of errors, manners, and even a few situations. Because of that, there’s some secondary embarrassment potential, but nothing worse than what you would find on an average sitcom.
I adored Hugh. He was such a good boy. The poor dear is convinced that he’d be a horrible husband and father because of genetics. That he’s broken. And thus doesn’t deserve love because he feels he cannot be faithful to the one he adores. It’s kind of adorable. He’s such a good man. In fact, that’s his weakness and what gets him into trouble. He wants to make people happy… which means he does things and says things that he thinks they want to hear rather than the truth. It’s an interesting way to present a hero.
I also liked Minerva. She’s a commoner. Poor. Determined. She’s resourceful and knows how to make the best of a bad situation, but she’s also hobbled by the desire to protect her youngest sister from the cruelties of life… which bites her in her rear.
The romance was well done… it’s definitely a slow-burn romance with plenty of obstacles along the way. But they’re realistic obstacles and ones of the characters' own making. There’s a lot of good foreshadowing and neither character is a reliable narrator. It’s well done.
There do need to be some trigger warnings for people: Triggers for parental abuse, parental neglect, parental abandonment, infidelity, parental death, depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, and more I may be missing. It’s a fun book, but make sure you’re in a good place before reading it.
In all, I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what happens next in this series.
If this is your jam, you can get it here.
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I received an ARC of this book on NetGalley