Welcome to the charming, fatefully named village of Loves Bridge, where a woman destined for spinsterhood can live a life of her own choosing—or fall unexpectedly, madly in love…
Miss Isabelle Catherine Hutting would rather be lounging in the library than circling the ballroom in search of a husband any day. So when Cat hears that the town’s infamous Spinster House is open for a new resident, she jumps at the chance to put all this marriage business behind her. But first she must make arrangements with her prospective landlord, Marcus, the Duke of Hart—the most handsome man she’s ever seen, and the only man who’s ever impressed her in the least…
With her wit, independent spirit, and not least of all her beauty, Marcus can’t help but be stirred by Cat. It’s terribly unfortunate he’s not looking to marry, given the centuries-old curse that left his family with the Spinster House to begin with. No duke shall live to see his heir’s birth. But is there a chance the curse could be broken—in true fairy-tale fashion—by an act of true love? The race to Happily Ever After is about to begin…
Source: ARC from Zebra (Kensington Books) Via NetGalley
This was a lovely escapist read – easy, a touch silly, frequently fun and it wears its historical setting lightly. Cat is an independent miss – the oldest of ten children, she’s fed up of living in the vicarage and taking care of her younger siblings. It’s easy to understand why she wants to move into the Spinster House, even if it’s also fairly obvious that she needs to be careful what she wishes for. Yes, she’s occasionally a bit starchy and she does make some judgemental pronouncements stemming from naivety, but she also has a good heart and a fun sense of humour.
Then along comes Marcus, the brooding duke, who is convinced that marriage really will be the death of him, thanks to that pesky curse. Well, five dead dukes and five fatherless sons tell their own story. So he plans to put off marriage as long as possible. He also has no plans to hang around in Loves Bridge, so when Cat asks him to let her move into the Spinster House he’s happy to agree. Except nothing is quite that simple.
This book is gentle and fun, with the silly curse hanging over everything, leading both Marcus and Cat to ignore their feelings for most of the book. The arguments over Spinster House provide a bit of an interesting distraction for a while too, although I was left frequently wondering why – in a house with three bedrooms – only one spinster could live in it at once. I would also have been tempted to burn it to the ground, had I been Cat, after the actions of her so-called friends. She is far more forgiving than I would be!
Still, I liked the romance between Cat and Marcus, slow going though it is. I liked that they got to know each other and I loved Cat’s little twin brothers and their uncomfortable questions. Actually, I just really liked Cat’s family, from her sharp-witted mother to her kindly, quiet father. There are some fun characters in the village too, not least the older spinster sisters who are anything but maidenly.
However, I have to admit that once things with Spinster House were wrapped up I did wonder where the rest of the book was going to go, since it was barely half done and there didn’t seem much plot left to tie up. There’s a bit about diaries and plenty of flip-flopping feelings and it did feel the slightest bit padded to allow certain other (sadly predictable) events to unfold. And then it ended, really, really abruptly.
I had my doubts about the duke being the first to find romance, since he’s the subject of the curse and all, but now I realise that instead of his tale being completed here the curse is going to carry on through the rest of the series (two more books, I’m assuming, given the friends that are so conveniently there to be paired up). Which led to a sharp, sudden stop.
So if you’re looking for something light and fun that definitely does not take itself seriously, with an independent (if naive) heroine and a hero who doesn’t really know what he wants, then you may well enjoy this. ending aside, it was a very pleasant way to pass some time and I look forward to seeing how the rest of the series turns out – even if a certain someone deserves a curse of her own after that nasty trick.
What To Do With A Duke is out August 25th!
Visit Sally MacKenzie for more details.