Victoria Carson never expected love. An American heiress and graduate of Lady Grantham’s finishing school, she’s been groomed since birth to marry an English title—the grander the better. So when the man chosen for her, the forbidding Earl of Dunnley, seems to hate her on sight, she understands that it can’t matter. Love can have no place in this arrangement. Andrew Hargrave has little use for his title and even less for his cold, disinterested parents. Determined to make his own way, he’s devoted to his life in Italy working as an archaeologist. Until the collapse of his family’s fortune drags him back to England to a marriage he never wanted and a woman he doesn’t care to know. Wild attraction is an unwanted complication for them both, though it forms the most fragile of bonds. Their marriage of convenience isn’t so intolerable after all—but it may not be enough when the deception that bound them is finally revealed.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
Victoria Carson has never, not for a single moment fooled herself into thinking she is meant for something more than a strategic marriage. Though she has lived in England for the majority of her life, Victoria is American born and her father’s fortune is considered less than those of native born English. In fact, if her parents hope to gain any sort of legitimacy, and they do, Victoria is expected to marry a proper English gentleman with a title. Too bad for Victoria’s parents, their daughter has a strong sense of self-preservation, a healthy amount of free will, and a brain that is smart enough to work she wants for herself. Victoria knows she can’t avoid the marriage but she can certainly use her brain and her free will to carve out a life for herself once she’s out of her parent’s house.
Andrew Hargrave, otherwise known as the spare heir was always meant to be the spare and never the actual heir. Then his brother had the audacity to die and bing, bang, boom, Andrew becomes the heir to an estate that is flat broke and with no hope of recovery outside of an advantageous marriage. Yep, like Victoria, Andrew is expected to marry well and restore the family to what it once was. As far as his father is concerned, the marriage doesn’t have to be happy nor does the woman have to be desirable as long as she comes with a fortune. Given the example his own parents have set, Andrew never had any intention of marrying. In fact, Andrew has every intention of going through with the marriage, making it legitimate, and then returning to his archaeological dig in Italy and his mistress. Yeah, that ought to make everyone happy.
Both Andrew and Victoria are physically attracted to one another and Victoria is willing to give marriage a real shot but she soon discovers her new husband isn’t as willing. In fact, Andrew seems quite angry about his situation and completely unwilling to get to know Victoria. Within 48 hours of her wedding, Victoria finds herself abandoned by her husband at his crumbling ancestral home. Determined to make a life for herself, Victoria turns her time, attention, and vast fortune toward repairing Andrew’s ancestral home and making it her own. In the time Andrew is gone, Victoria not only remodels the home but reestablishes relations with the estate’s tenants and helps them bring the surrounding properties back up to an acceptable and profitable standard. When Andrew eventually returns, he is blown away by Victoria’s progress.
For the better part of a year, Victoria is left to her own devices but eventually, Andrew is forced to return to England. Upon his return, Andrew is not only made to take his father’s title but he is also made to really focus on life at home. What he discovers, much to his great surprise is that his home is just that, a home and it has been made so by his estranged wife. With his own dogged determination, Andrew vows to make things right with Victoria and with any luck, he will have a marriage he never, ever thought possible.
The Bottom Line: I do love a good period piece with a strong-willed woman! Victoria Carson certainly fits the bill and then some. From the moment Victoria is introduced, she establishes herself as an independent woman living in a time and place when such things weren’t prized and/or valued. Victoria is bound and determined to be her own woman even if she has to be married. Victoria is by far the highlight of this read and watching her come into her own is quite fantastic. When Andrew comes back into her life, Victoria certainly makes it difficult for him to be a part of what she has built but the butthole sort of deserves it 🙂 To be completely fair, Andrew’s life hasn’t always been easy and he does have some redeeming qualities but Victoria has to dig deep to find them. Once the two work out their differences, let go of a good number of past hurts, and really get to know each other, their road to an HEA finally becomes clear.