When Major Bartholomew Blackpool learns the girl-next-door from his childhood will be forced into an unwanted marriage, he returns home to play her pretend beau. He figures now that he’s missing a leg, a faux fiancée is the best an ex-soldier can get. He admires her pluck, but the lady deserves a whole man—and he’ll ensure she gets one.
Miss Daphne Vaughan hates that crying off will destroy Major Blackpool’s chances of finding a real bride. She plots to make him jilt her first. Who cares if it ruins her? She never wanted a husband anyway. But the major is equally determined that she break the engagement. With both of them on their worst behavior, neither expects their fake betrothal to lead to love…
Source: ARC from the author via NetGalley
I do so love a wounded Regency hero. When he’s paired up with a charitable-minded miss determined to right the wrongs of the world, I am quickly smitten. Especially when the hero is given a chance to heroically ride to her rescue and save her from an unwanted forced marriage. And so the fourth installment of the wonderful Dukes of War series begins, but being an Erica Ridley novel, of course things are far from straightforward.
For one thing the hero is a former rake and darling of the ton, who is still adored by many even though he can’t see it through the fog of his own self-disgust. Then there’s the heroine who is far too busy saving the world to ever get married, and even if she did have time, she wouldn’t bother wasting it on any member of the selfish ton. Not that it matters because the engagement is false, required to last only as long as it takes for Daphne’s birthday to arrive. Then she can scoop up her modest portion and head north to save the weavers and the miners and the orphans and whoever else crosses her path.
Despite its potentially difficult subject matters – the loss of a limb, the loss of family members, the desperate plight of the working poor – this book is actually a light historical delight. Bartholomew may start off in a dark, depressed state, but he’s too stubborn to give in, even if his pride is more effective at holding him back than his missing leg. But despite all of this, he’s quick to help when Daphne asks and the scene between him and his parents is quite heartbreaking. I loved how he slowly comes back to life throughout the story, first as a member of the ton, then as someone he believes might be worthy of Daphne. He’s strong and charming and sweet and I loved reading about him.
As for Daphne, on the one hand she’s a selfless crusader out to save the world, on the other she’s actually surprisingly narrow-minded, kind of selfish and a touch shallow. I really liked those complicated facets in her character, particularly when she began to notice them herself. She’s so quick to judge others as unworthy because she doesn’t believe they work as hard as she does to save people, rather than looking for ways to get them to help her. At least she’s not scheming or manipulative, she’s just so determined to matter that she almost ignores everyone around her in the same way she’s been ignored herself all her life. Yet despite all of that, her heart is (mostly) in the right place and I loved the way she sees Bartholomew, especially when he doesn’t see himself.
In all this is a lovely read, bouncing around the social season to musicales and balls, while also touching on a few of the more troubled aspects of the period. Both main characters have their faults and flaws, but they’re also both likeable enough to make their romance endearing, and the last two chapters are simply wonderful. This series just keeps on getting better – I cannot wait to get my hands on Sarah’s story. One little sentence and I’m hooked already!
The Major’s Faux Fiancée is out June 1st!
Visit Erica Ridley for more details.