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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
Sir Richard Kenworthy must find a wife and he must do so quickly. This fact limits his options severely. Anyone who agrees to be wed within only a week or two of acquaintance is probably not going to be what he originally wanted in a wife, but there is nothing to be done about it. He needs a bride. Then he comes across Iris Smythe-Smith at her families musical and thinks maybe she'll fit the bill rather nicely. She's intelligent and values family and not difficult to look at or hold a conversation with. Iris has always been overlooked. Her pale coloring and quiet nature makes it easy to blend in with the background. What most people don't realize is that behind that quiet facade lies a quick wit and more intellect than the average society male can imagine a female to have. So when Sir Richard Kenworthy starts flirting with her and acting as a man falling in love, she wonders how true it is. Then a compromising position forces her hand and she can't help but wonder if he is hiding something. Is Sir Richard Kenworthy keeping secrets from his new bride or is Iris being paranoid? You'll have to read to find out!
I must say that "overjoyed" does not even begin to describe my feelings for when I got approved for this. I think I went a bit happiness crazy.
Julia Quinn is one of my all time favorite authors. I love all of her work. I think if you read my The Sum Of All Kisses review, you know that I more than a little fangirl-y over her work. Hell, my username on many a website is JuliaQuinnFan07! If I had to limit myself to only reading books by one author for the rest of my life, it would be her. That's how much of a fangirl I am. Her work never disappoints me. So, as you can imagine, when I got approved for this, I went a little crazy. I was literally bouncing for joy because I knew it would be awesome....and I wasn't wrong. Enough fangirling though, let's get on with the review!
Iris was a character I immediately loved. She's smart, she's sassy, she's perfectly sarcastic. Basically, she's everything you could want in a historical romance heroine. She's accepted her lot in life. She knows she'll never be the belle of the ball, but she's content with that. She actually likes being a wallflower because it gives her a chance to observe the people around her. This is one of her favorite past-times, just watching people. Seeing them interact with each other is utterly fascinating to her. Her quiet wit and biting sarcasm had me smirking the entire novel and is what really won Richard over.
Speaking of Richard, I liked him pretty quickly. He's so entirely devoted to his family that it's hard not to love him. He may go about solving it the wrong way, but he is determined to help his family, whether they want it or not. I can both understand him and hate him at the same time. By the time his secret was revealed, I knew what it was, but I didn't catch on until just moments before. Up until that point, he was charming and sweet and it was difficult not to fall for him even though you knew he was hiding something big. After the doozy, it was still hard not to fall for him. You couldn't argue with his logic. It made perfect sense and it was heart-breaking to watch. All he wants to do is help and to him, this crazy option, is the only option. He sees no other path. What he wants, what he expects Iris to do, is insane. And yet, he goes about it in such a way that you just want to hug him.
This story has quite a bit more mystery than I'm used to in historical romance. JQ keeps us on the end of our seats trying to figure out what Richard is hiding. We know that it's bad because he is sure that Iris will never forgive him for it. I'll admit that I had many theories floating around my head and the one that ended up being right was not the one I was expecting. But the closer you get to finding out, the more I didn't want to know. I wanted Richard and Iris to live happily ever after. That needed to happen and I began to believe Richard's side, that Iris would never forgive him. It was a heart-breaking ride, one that does end happily, for all those who will wonder. JQ wouldn't do any less than a happily ever after.
This is exactly what I look for in a historical romance novel. Julia Quinn is the standard I hold all others in the genre up to and this novel is a prime example of why. She does it all flawlessly. She gives us the perfect story, the one that has just the right amount of conflict to keep it moving and still manages to pull together a believable happily ever after. We always get lovable characters and enough wit and repartee to keep up snorting with laughter (even while reading in public). You get it all and you don't have to compromise on anything. This novel is perfection and any historical romance fan (or just romance fan in general) will love it as much as I did!
****Thank you to Avon for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****