Lady Freyja Bedwyn is not your typical Duke’s daughter. After attending her brother’s wedding, she decides to go visit a friend in Bath. This is not because she wants to see her old friend, but more because she has no intentions of going home. Freyja was in love once before, and the man that she was in love with married someone else. They are expecting a child and Freyja has no intentions on being anywhere in the vicinity when the blessed event occurs.
Freyja ends up staying in an Inn on the way to Bath. The rooms have no locks on the doors and her older brother, Wulf, the current Duke, has decreed that she should not be left alone. Freyja knows that she will get no sleep if her maid, Alice, stays in the same room with her, so she orders her to find somewhere else to sleep. Freyja is just about asleep when the door to her room bursts open and a man carrying his boots and jacket comes in. Freyja is no shrinking violet and demands that the man leave her room, even though he is the most handsome man that she can recall seeing. Instead of leaving, the man hides in the wardrobe just in time to avoid the next two men that burst into Freyja’s room. As a Duke’s daughter, Freyja has an inborn haughtiness, which serves her well now. She does get these two men to leave her room. Eventually, she screams, the man in the wardrobe leaves by the window, after stealing a kiss of course, and Freyja actually enjoys the whole adventure.
She eventually gets to Bath and her friend’s house and is settled in. Freyja knows that she is going to die of boredom in Bath, but it’s much better than being home when Kit’s child is born. She runs into the man again. It turns out that he is Joshua Moore, the Marquess of Hallmere. He happens to be in Bath visiting his grandmother. After a run-in the Pump Room, when Joshua actually manages to get the upper hand with Freyja, they realize that they actually enjoy each other’s company. When Joshua’s aunt shows up in Bath and tries to force an engagement on him to his cousin, Joshua proposes a fake engagement to Freyja. Freyja sees it as an excellent lark and goes along with the plan. Needless to say, Joshua’s aunt is not pleased by this turn of events and the next thing you know, Wulf shows up in Bath. Now the fun begins and Wulf demands that the “pretend engagement” be continued until such time as it will no longer embarrass the Bedwyn name.
Joshua is a wounded hero. His parents died when he was six years old and he was forced to live with his aunt and uncle. His aunt made it abundantly clear to him that this presence was not wanted. Since he made a male cousin who was the heir, Joshua went to live in the village and became a carpenter as soon as he could. Then, the heir died under mysterious circumstances with Joshua being the last person to see him alive. After that, Joshua went to the Continent and was a spy during the war. Joshua has no intentions of returning to Hallmere until his aunt forces him to it. He comes across as a shallow pleasure seeker, but it’s a mask to hide the pain. Freyja is five and twenty, way past marriageable age. She is also well aware of the fact that she is no beauty. She has the Bedwyn nose and dark eyebrows, which definitely do not go with her fair hair. There was an understanding between her family and Kit’s. She was to marry Kit’s older brother. Then, Kit came home on leave and Freyja and Kit fell in love. She bowed to family pressure and became engaged to Kit’s older brother. He died shortly after the engagement. When Kit finally came home from the war, he brought a wife with him. This devastated Freyja. Freyja is a wonderful character, full of contradictions. She is very strong and always meets her fears head on. She is very independent and does what she wants. Joshua’s aunt is a woman that is easy to hate. She is manipulative and two-faced. She uses poor health to get what she wants and definitely retaliates when she is thwarted.
Even though this story is part of a series, it makes a wonderful stand-alone by itself. I have read the other books in the series, but didn’t have a problem with this one. This is a great Regency Romance. I became caught up in the story from the very first page and cried at the end of it. The characters are all very realistic and well-rounded. The clothing and balls and Bath and everything else in this story is just so very much in the Regency Era. I loved watching as Freyja and Joshua learned more and more about each other and just how well suited they are. This is definitely a book that I recommend reading.
Chere Gruver, August 2003
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