Miss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.
Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.
All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.
Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.
This book could not have been any more tailored to my interests if Courtney Milan wrote it for me specifically! Every page of this book brought with it a sense of gentle delight. The standouts to me are the three main characters of the book (Chloe, Jeremy, and Chloe's dad) as well as the setting, Wedgeford.
I knew I was going to love Chloe, our heroine, from the moment she showed up with her ever-present clipboard. As we quickly find out, “Everyone thought she was cold until they needed her to be efficient.” She is a woman with a MISSION who also cares very deeply for those around her. Also, that mission is REVENGE on the men who stole her father's sauce recipe decades prior, and her goal is to put them out of business. She also creates the tropes she wishes to see in the world (There's Only One Bed!!!) and she is everything I could ever hope for from a romance heroine.
Jeremy, the hero, is a very sincere young man who starts this book with almost no ability to communicate his sincerity. I loved how Milan showed us how he became that way and the depth of his frustration with himself!
“If he had any talent for plain speech, he might have confessed the depths of his feelings by now and obtained her understanding in return. Unfortunately, Jeremy had none. He’d told her how he felt, but somehow, whenever he looked at her, his thoughts never came out as something sober and intellectual like I respect the things that matter to you. No. Instead, everything he felt got tied up and turned around into I genuflect to the sovereignty of your list. His words were honestly meant, yes, but the delivery was far less believable. He wished he had a plan for his stupid mouth, but plans were her talent. His? Not so much. For now, he followed behind her.”
For me, the character who stole the entire book was Chloe's dad. As a child of immigrants myself, I firmly believe that food is not only a love language, but possibly THE love language. His habit of overly spicing the food he serves to Jeremy at first appears to be stereotypical "overprotective father" behavior, but it turns out to mean so much more. Here are some examples of his interactions with Chloe and Jeremy:
“I will eat dinner when it is time. What was it you said? Oh, right. My hunger is my hunger.” “No.” Her father glared at her. “You are my daughter. Your hunger is also my hunger. It won’t take long. Help with the noodles.”
“I’ll just…wait outside.” Jeremy said, gesturing vaguely behind them. “No,” said Mr. Fong. “You will also eat. You are rich, which means you are weak. You do not have the necessary fortitude to go without meals.” “I—that’s—” Jeremy bit his lip. “Really unfair. I’ve skipped meals before, and it only killed me twice.” Mr. Fong ignored this attempt at levity. “Chloe does not have time on her list to care for a stubborn fool who collapses of hunger, and she is too kind to leave you lying in the dirt where you belong.”
“Mr. Fong looked over at him. For a moment, he stared as if seeing into Jeremy’s soul. Then the corner of his mouth twitched, as if he were suppressing a smile. “I see what you’re hoping for. You should have had this conversation with Chloe years ago. Now you wish I’d done it in your stead. But I haven’t finished the conversations I should have with her. There’s no need for me to assist with yours.”
As for the setting, Milan has created a town where POC existed in England in the 1800s in peace and happiness. I loved reading about the Wedgewood Trials, and even though the massive scavenger hunt ended up not featuring heavily in this book, I think future books will continue to build off this tradition and I'm looking forward to learning more. One of my big takeaways from the ending is that marginalized people don't always have to fight for approval and acceptance from "society"; sometimes it is enough to simply exist in the places that already love you.
adorable and lovely
i love all of courtney milan’s books and I was so happy to see she was writing historical fiction with chinese characters! she always writes the sweetest boys and i love chloe. all the food made me hungry and want to learn new recipes. totally recommend to anyone with a love for cute romance and food!!