by Vanessa Riley
Series: Advertisements for Love #3
Also in this series: The Bittersweet Bride, The Bashful Bride
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Publication Date: October 22, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Frederica Burghley wants to be married by Yuletide. Or else her father will set her up with one of his friends. The bonbon-loving illegitimate daughter of the duke wants to choose her own husband. Advertising in the newspaper seems like the way to go. But a sinister response, with threats against her life, leads her to enlist the help of her very handsome, dear friend Jasper Fitzwilliam, Lord Hartwell.
A father and widower, Jasper is not only tasked with keeping Frederica safe but also with helping his vibrant friend choose a suitable husband. The more he tries to keep the ever-surprising woman alive and find her a good match, the more Jasper realizes he cares for her. The two friends risk their lives for each other, so they should be able to risk their feelings for a chance at a deep and true love together. But he's not looking for marriage and she's not looking for convenience.
The third installment of the Advertisements for Love series finally brings us Frederica and Jasper’s story (and another beautiful cover!). They’ve been popping up in the other books since a particular incident with a maypole, and I was so looking forward to figuring out how they would end up together! While I think this could be read as a standalone, I think it works much better if you’ve read the other books, especially Theodosia’s (an older Philip makes several appearances, and once of the subplots deals with her pregnancy and labor).
“He stared at this woman he thought he knew, but this was a stranger, an intriguing one. “What is it that you want?”
She blew a fallen tendril from her eyes, and he saw a horrid bruise. “Other than an honorable marriage?”
“Yes, Miss Burghley, other than that.”
“A woman’s dreams are special. If I say them without preparing for them, doing all the things I have to make them come true, they are empty words. I’d rather not say.”
Ever since placing advertisements for marriage in the papers, Frederica’s been receiving threatening notes. It all comes to a head on the night of her father’s marriage to his new duchess, when someone breaks into her bedroom and she only narrowly escapes – ending up in Jasper’s room. While they’d had a flirtatious friendship since they met nearly a year ago, Frederica cut off contact with him when her anonymous writer threatened his daughters. Faced with the villain getting more bold and her father’s marriage, Frederica decides the obvious solution is to get married by Christmas, and enlists Jasper’s help in evaluating her newspaper suitors. Jasper, a widower with three daughters, has another solution – they should get married. Frederica refuses – Jasper’s heart still belongs to his dead wife, nor does she want to endanger them – and so begins an attempt to find a suitable match while hunting down whoever’s trying to harm her.
“This is such a lovely room, but it needs a little dusting. And these treats look nice. But this biscuit has been cooked a little too—”
“Miss Burghley,” he said, “you don’t seem to be a runner.”
“And you’ve never chased, not really.”
“Maybe I have, but I’m slow and subtle. How better to draw you in?”
Frederica believes herself to be blessed beyond measure – after all, her father took her in when her mother, his mistress, died and has showered her with things, if not his love. So what if he refers to her almost the same way he does his dogs or any of his other prized possessions? She knows her worth, though, and refuses to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a courtesan. Instead Frederica desires to be a loving wife in a home full of music, along with continuing her charity work with girls from the street (the reason, we find out, behind this is particularly heart-wrenching). Jasper is… well, he’s a bit of a mess. He’s still grieving for his wife who died two years ago (point in fact, he sends his girls away for the entire month of November so he can basically grovel in grief), but his feelings for Frederica are impossible for him to ignore. Though Frederica feels the same, she doesn’t want to play second fiddle to a ghost, and so most of the book is watching them overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to first admit their feelings for each other and then overcome them. They are such a sweet couple together, though, and it was lovely watching things finally come together for them.
“Yes, I love the Yuletide, for love seems to hold everything together, tighter. And everyone’s a little kinder, kind for no reason at all.”
“Kindness means a lot to you.”
“Lord Hartwell, shouldn’t it mean a lot to everyone?”
“You say this as if you don’t get kindness often.”
She looked at him with that patient smile of hers that let him know he’d said something foolish. “Some mean well. Others run errands. Come along, Lord Hartwell.”
I was ambivalent about the last book, and on reflection I think it was because I didn’t like how incredibly naive Ester was. For whatever reason, while I like flawed heroines, I prefer for them to get their act together quickly! In this book, however, the naive one is Jasper. Time after time, he hurts Frederica’s feelings with thoughtless words and actions. He’s not purposefully hurting her, but it’s just that he’s come from such a privileged upbringing – from his race, gender, and class – that he can’t fathom the small aggressions that Frederica experiences daily. He also takes FOR-EV-ER to make up his mind and realize what he needs to do to persuade Frederica to marry him. This drove me a bit crazy, but I think it’s understandable, given his background. His life has been wrecked by loss and grief, and opening himself up – to Frederica, to his girls – to love again means also opening himself up to the possibility of further loss. So while I normally dislike drama caused by communication problems, the rest of the story was enough to sway me.
The book was well-paced, and I enjoyed the suspense subplot of them trying to discover who’s been sending Frederica threatening letters. There was one portion of it that I felt took too long for them to puzzle out View Spoiler »(no, Frederica, for goodness’ sake, you weren’t drunk, someone spiked your drink!) « Hide Spoiler, but otherwise I thought it was well done, though I strongly disliked the resolution of it. Ms. Riley manages to navigate smoothly between witty dialogue, sweet romantic scenes, and cutting commentary – she doesn’t shy away from the prejudices Frederica faces because of her race and illegitimacy, nor from the fate of girls and young women turned out on the street.
Overall, this is a charming historical with a holiday twist, with wonderful characters and a satisfyingly sweet romance. I am beyond excited that, thankfully, there will be a fourth book in the series coming out next summer!