Rhys de Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, hides his cynicism behind a quick wit and an even quicker smile. He must marry an heiress, and as luck would have it, the pretty little seamstress-turned-heiress is exactly what he needs. But he never expected to fall for Prudence, and when his shocking deception is revealed, he will stop at nothing to win her back . . . even if it means renouncing every last one of his wicked ways.
Comment: This is the second installment of the Girl Bachelors series. I've read the first one in the series one year ago but I still remembered some details of it while reading this one, which doesn't always happen when there's quite a bridge of time between readings.
In this second story, we follow Prudence Bosworth, a seamstress and part of the group of friends who has lodgings with mrs Morris. She was happy for her friend Emma when she married a viscount, but she also let go some of her fantasies go, that she too could still find her perfect man. Real life, though, is more difficult and, when the story begins she is practicing all her patience to endure the treatment of an entitled lady whose dress she is fixing. She is suddenly "rescued" by the duke of St Cyres, whom everyone knows is in debt. Nevertheless, she appreciates his chivalry, which she believes even stronger when he helps another maid later on, and when she receives an unexpected inheritance, she starts dreaming he can look at her again. But is he as honorable as she believes or as wicked as others claim?
In general, I liked this story and it was certainly easy for me to turn the pages. I especially liked the tone, not too serious, not too silly but with a sweet heroine and a traditional trope, meaning some situations were to be expected. It's true that sudden inheritances weren't that easy to happen but it's not a completely impossible situation nor that unrealistic. What I think is that the way this was used could have been better.
The plot can seem rather contrived, because the heroine has always been poor, her mother not well seen by many for her father abandoned them and they weren't married, and her close family didn't treat her well. As an adult she has friends but not many others she can trust or that she feels would help her. Of course, we root for her since she discovers her father left her a lot of money and apart from the obvious romance with the indebted duke, part of us also expects this will have the sort of moral lesson we like to see: money doesn't mean instant or forever happiness.
At first, Prudence is happy she is now able to accomplish a lot, but the money comes with conditions and one is she will have to marry. Only she doesn't have someone, but conveniently she had seen the duke be a good man, unlike what everyone said about him and we, the reader, also know he has qualities and heroic reasons for some of his mistakes...we only learn that closer to the end, so the plot is basically about his attempt to win her hand and her slow but steady disillusionment with the idea that having money equals doing whatever she wants.
I think both Prudence and Rhys, the duke, were intriguing enough to make this happen. They are opposites, and not just in class, because she is clearly a dreamer and an innocent, seeing the good in everything. This doesn't mean she is unaware of how others can be mean, but her nature is clearly one of positivism and it can be quite a contrast with his, darker and more sarcastic. His family life isn't good, he has things in his past which affected him severely and this does affect his choice of behavior for a long time.
The romance is a bit unfair, because we know he isn't as well intended as Prudence believes, even though of course the truth isn't as bad as gossip would spread. Nevertheless, the romance felt a little unbalanced because of this, if one element is "blind" to the truth... I think the author could have done this better, or making her less naive (at times if felt rather unreal for a working woman, even though her upbringing was formal), or making the situation develop differently, or adding angst so the truth would have more impact...
When the story is getting to the end, I thought the author would go a certain way when Prudence discovers the truth, but there is a very small twist, which although quite obvious, was still neat enough to make this part of the story feel a little different from the norm and I actually liked that.
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