This Regency era battle of wits, wills, and the sexes features a wily duke determined to see the succession of his line secured. The duke can't force his sons to marry, but he can make their lives miserable until they do. Resisting his pressure, each gentleman holds out for true love.
The second book in the series features Devlin St. Just, the duke's oldest, but illegitimate, son. He arrives at his new estate weary in body and spirit only to find the previous owner's bastard daughter and her beautiful cousin are his responsibility and making his life almost unbearably complicated.
Comment: After having read the first book in this Windham series by author Grace Burrowes, I decided I'd try the second story. It took me quite a wile to get it and to then start it but this month I finally started reading it.
In this second story we have one of the brothers of the hero from book #1 as the protagonist.
Devlin St Just is not legitimate but he has been educated along his siblings and the duchess has always accepted him and loved him, even if he isn't her biological child. However, Devlin has always assumed his presence was one of pity and he has thought his real mother left him because she didn't want him around.
Now that the war is over and having Devlin been a brave officer, he is given an earldom which was close to ruins but he has slowly managed to get an idea of what needs to be done. He also meets young Winnie, a six year old he becomes very fond of, as he does of the woman who seems to be taking care of her, the child's cousin, miss Emmaline Farnum. But, as the days go by and the more he knows about the two of them, the more interested Devlin gets about their peculiar situation.
After so many disappointments and the recovery from the war losses, can Devlin find happiness at last?
As it happened with the other story, I think this story dragged a bit at times. This makes me feel slightly unfair towards the book because I did like most elements and I did like some weren't easily dealt with just because. But this same eye for detail made things quite slow and sometimes I'd think the author was just saying everything too many times instead of actually dealing with things.
Once again, I liked the relationships portrayed in the book, especially those of Devlin with his closer family. When other family members were in scene I really liked seeing they mattered and were not there just to make things meaningful. I liked that, no matter how short the speech or quick the scene, there was an obvious caring among them. I like this sort of detail, especially because it's always easier to use the family dramas to highlight an idea or a plot move.
The romance was OK, it took time to become evident, it was something the author took care with in trying to present and I do appreciate the fact we are lead to believe things as we need but this also means when we get to the end of the story - and sharing my opinion with many other readers - the secrets that are supposed to be overcome by the characters just seemed to be over the top. I don't mean to say the reason for the secrets isn't a valid one, only that the time it took for them to be revealed was a little bit overdone and not as necessary as that.
Of course I mean this regarding Emmy, the main character with secrets to hold.
Emmy is a interesting character, very dedicated and caring, a baker and she tries her best to help those she can. She also starts having feelings for Devlin but as the story moves along, it seems her worries are bigger than just a different in status and the public opinion because her cousin Winnie is the result of a liaison of Emmy's aunt with the former earl - who died - and the fact the aunt was actually the earl's mistress. I can get that society and public opinion were key elements when it comes to relationship acceptances but obviously this being a romance, things would have been easier to change. Still, the author has done quite a solid portrayal of guilt and lack of confidence in Emmy's character but as one can imagine, there is an HEA in the future for certain.
Mentioning this, I must say the HEA was disappointing. I can assume I'll see these characters again in the next book (that I happen to plan on buying eventually) but the notion of HEA should be quite obvious without the expectation it will be so only in a possible next installment. I feel the way things happened were cute but I wanted an epilogue or something to fully convince me.
All in all, the story had enough elements done good enough to make it a well structured plot but some details weren't polished enough while others were taken a bit to far for me. I get everything is a matter of perspective but I expected the balance to be a bit better in this book. Still, I want to read the next one anyway even anticipating more of these tactics to be there as well. At least, this is an entertaining story.