All her life, Tessa Jenkins has had two goals: find the man who fathered her and open her own millinery shop. In order to do the latter, she needs to do the former because buying a shop takes money. Money she doesn’t have. When she happens to overhear two patrons at the shop she’s working at discussing that the Duke of Carlin, Guy Whitby, has gone through yet another governess, she lands on an idea – present herself as a prospective governess for his unruly and ill-behaved daughter. After all, living in a duke’s household will allow her a better opportunity to discover who her father might be. She never plans on caring about the duke’s daughter or the duke himself.
Guy Whitby never expected to be duke. After all, he was fifth in line to the title, but after a spate of accidents and illnesses, that’s just what he is. He wanted to be a scientist, traveling the world, not an elite member of society with matchmaking mamas throwing their daughters at him. Speaking of daughters, he has to do something with her. She’s been horribly spoiled and has managed to scare away every single agency-vouched governess in less than a week. He is, quite frankly, desperate. Which is why he’s willing to give the singularly unsuitable Miss Jenkins a chance. It has nothing to do with his attraction to her. No, not at all…
This was a charming romance with a hint of mystery behind it. As you might expect, there is definitely conflict when it comes to the class difference between Tessa and Guy, but it’s not the only conflict. There’s the mystery of who Tessa’s noble father is. As well as the Carlin Curse to deal with. Then there’s the needs of a child who has been traumatized and used as a pawn against her father. There’s a lot going on here, even if the conflict on the surface doesn’t seem great, that changes as the story goes on.
Tessa is an absolutely lovely character. Smart, funny, and kind. She’s good with children because growing up in an orphanage she had to be. Think Dickensian conditions and you won’t be far off. She’s got trauma and a history, but it’s tempered her. Made her kind and considerate. At the same time, she’s not TSTL. Sure, she makes some missteps and mistakes, but she also gets herself out of them. It’s refreshing. She’s also amazeballs with Sophy, Guy’s daughter. And I really loved how Sophy and her storyline was handled.
Guy is an interesting character. Complex. At times he’s kind and gentle while at others he’s didactic and overbearing. When he wants something, he manipulates circumstances to get what he wants. And I didn’t always like that. What I did love was his interest in the natural world and his scholarly bent. It was neat to see, and it was wholly appropriate for the time period (warts and all).
The book isn’t perfect. There’s some clunky exposition in the beginning, some potentially dubious consent (she gets herself tipsy so that she has the courage to let herself be seduced and the hero goes along with it – it’s not fully dubious since she made her decision before she got drunk, but it’s not fully consensual either since the discussion wasn’t had between them before she got tipsy). Plus some other stuff later that’s too spoilery for a review that had me shaking my head *points to the hero being overbearing*. And while it is technically a series the book can fully stand on its own.
But all said, the book really is a lovely light read.
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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley