Title: The Improper Bride
Author: Lily Maxton
Series: Sisters of Scandal #5
Genre: Regency Romance
Available: Jan 25th
Cold, arrogant, and demanding Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would never dally with a mere servant. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire, his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them together day and night. As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble. Cassandra is surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employer’s hard façade—and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him. But anything between lord and servant is impossible…and besides, as a widow, she knows love only leads to heartbreak.
Henry is changing, as well. His close brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional isolation…and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady and produce an heir. Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately begins searching for a suitable bride. But Cassandra is the only woman who is never far from his mind or his heart. Contrary to everything he’s been taught to believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match. Now, if only he could convince everyone else of that. Especially Cassandra…
Source: ARC from Entangled: Scandalous via NetGalley
This was so good. Henry is a gruff and arrogant lord, Cassandra is a lowly but intelligent servant, and they have never had much to do with each other beyond Cassandra’s duties as his housekeeper. Until a house fire leaves him scarred, bedridden and bad tempered and it’s up to Cassandra to keep him occupied – by getting him to teach her German.
This book was a wonderful tonic as this most unlikely couple got to know each other and fell in love, despite the stifling constrictions of the class system. Henry is very much a product of his rigid upbringing, yet Cassandra uncovers kindness and generosity inside him. I loved how he came to admire her intelligence, even as he struggled to understand her emotions and work out whether or not she cared for him.
As for Cassandra, Henry not only feeds her thirst for knowledge without ridiculing her, he also teaches her how to open her heart again after the loss of her husband. The weight of their divergent status weighs much more heavily on her, but then she’s also the one with the most to lose and the higher price to pay. She’s never foolish about the difficulties she faces every step along the way into a relationship with Henry, and I admired her strength of character as she struggled against her feelings for fear of being hurt.
The romance itself is a steady, slow-build of attraction and longing that takes its time to cross the invisible (but very real) boundary between master and servant. They’re not always kind to each other and don’t always think well of each other either, but I loved the slower pace and how it allowed them to get to know each other first and weigh up whether it was all really worth the risk. They’ve both been hurt (Henry physically, Cassandra emotionally), but together they are capable of healing, and I loved how things progressed between them.
Yes, okay, if I’m honest the whole side-issue of Henry and his ex mistress sat a little at odds with the man he is in this book (this is my first read from this series) and I wasn’t entirely convinced by some of Cassandra’s choices towards the end, and the reactions she got, but overall this was just lovely.
If you’re after a fast-paced, sexy historical, well, you won’t find that here. But if you’re looking for a thoughtful, well-paced, sensual romance that crosses social divides and turns the forbidden into something worth fighting for, then you might just enjoy this. I certainly did, and I have a feeling my first taste of this series will definitely not be my last.
The Improper Bride is out January 25th!
Visit Lily Maxton for more details.