Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade
With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.
Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage . . . with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.
Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.
Shupe's third Four Hundred historical (after A Scandalous Deal) craftily combines details of New York's Gilded Age with enchanting romance. Lady Christina Barclay and her parents, the Earl and Countess of Pennington, left their home in England to visit her cousin in New York City, planning to marry Christina off to the highest bidder and restore their family fortunes. When her parents threaten to force her to marry elderly and sinister Mr. Van Peet, she flees to the home of her cousin's neighbor, Oliver Hawkes, a reclusive, wealthy inventor who has shunned the snobs of high society because of their cruelty about his deafness. Christina and Oliver have become friends; he is enchanted by her beauty, and she is attracted to his kindness and intelligence. Oliver offers to marry Christina to save her from marriage to Van Peet, provide the funds her family needs, and give her an annulment in a year, but as their friendship develops into mutual desire, their arrangement is impeded, leaving them wondering whether to keep their agreement or dare to explore a genuine marriage. Scintillating romance is at the heart of this tale of affable protagonists overcoming the wounds of their pasts.
This was a solid 3 stars for me - it started out encouraging. Oliver Hawkes, the mysterious and reclusive next door neighbor, is an unusual Historical Romance hero in that he is deaf - not a very typical hero. However, of course, he is suspicious of society as they shunned him when he returned from school despite his great fortune. When Christina is found on his property they develop a sweet friendship. Christina is significantly oppressed and abused by her parents and Oliver develops a protectiveness toward her and helps her develop a backbone.
My only complaints about this book are, first, while Oliver and Christina’s relationship development is sweet, Christina is so meek and downtrodden it is hard to like her. She improves for sure, but during the book, I had to take breaks to read because the story did not grip me to the extent that I couldn’t put it down. There is also something about this sweet relationship that I found myself wincing when a graphic mention would be made of some sexual reference or when Oliver would graphically describe what he felt like or wanted to do. It was out of place in the story and just didn’t flow.
I loved the first in this series and I somehow skipped the second but definitely want to back and read it. This is definitely a standalone - the characters of the first book make an appearance in this one but it is not necessary at all to have read the first one as the stories are really unrelated. This is s sweet story if you are looking for sweet.
Thank you to Avon for granting me the opportunity to read the DRC.