When Grace Godwyn is introduced to her soon-to-be fiancé’s closest friend, she can hardly keep from fainting. The man whose angry gaze confronts her is none other than the handsome stranger who came to her aid in a dark French alleyway. The stranger with whom she’d shared a moment of reckless passion. And now, with a single word, he could destroy her one chance for security.
Julian St. John, Lord Knighton, owes his friend too much to allow him to fall into the clutches of a craven fortune hunter. He knows all he needs to know of Grace Godwyn: that she’s the orphaned and penniless daughter of a disgraced viscount; that her lips taste incomparably sweet. There is no way he is going to allow this marriage to take place.
Yet the more time Julian and Grace are forced to spend in each other’s company, the more irresistible their desire grows—and the more devastating the potential consequences.
Grace Godwyn has no interest in being a burden to anyone, least of all her finishing school friends. Trouble is, Grace is a finished lady with no family and no money to recommend her in marriage to most of the eligible bachelors in London society. With few prospects, Grace finds herself facing the very real possibility of having to go into service, a position that would lower her already low reputation even more and further separate her from her friends. It is with a bleak future in mind that Grace turns to her finishing school mistress, Lady Grantham. If anyone can find Grace a husband, it’s the formidable Genevieve Grantham.
Julian St. John has very firm and seemingly unwavering opinions about marriage. After watching his own father totally and completely humiliate his mother, Julian has no interest in marrying a woman who is not his equal both financially and socially. Those beliefs are put to the test each and every time Julian encounters Grace Godwyn. She excites all his senses, makes him absolutely crazy and somewhat reckless, and reminds him he is still very much a man capable of incredible passion despite his self-imposed rules. Julian doesn’t want to respond to Grace the way he does for several reasons: 1) she isn’t his social or financial equal, 2) she is currently being courted by his best friend and, 3) Julian is expected to marry his lifelong friend, Lady Honor. Yeah, the whole situation is all kinds of screwy and it’s going to get so much worse before it has any hope of getting better.
Over the days and weeks that pass, Julian tries everything imaginable, including running away to America, to erase his feelings for Grace. He doesn’t want to become the social and moral disgrace his father was, he doesn’t want to betray his best friend, and he certainly doesn’t want to disappoint everyone who is expecting he and Honor to marry. For Grace’s part, she fully appreciates her feelings for Julian, but knows how strongly he believes in avoiding an unequal marriage. Her place in society is already on the edge of total destruction and so, she must content herself with a future in which she is financially secure but in no way in love with her husband. Such is the plight of the penniless.
The Bottom Line: I believe this may be the end of the Grantham Girls series, and A Reluctant Betrothal is a fine and satisfying ending. As with the two previous reads in the series, Grace and Julian’s story is filled with struggle, emotional turmoil, sexual tension, and a few somewhat surprising twists and turns. There is no easy road to the HEA for Grace and Julian which keeps the read interesting and engaging. Both characters are incredibly stubborn and proud which means, they need some help getting to their inevitable union. One of the things I liked most about this read is how and where that help comes from. In all, the Grantham Girls trilogy has been a worthwhile set of books that will most certainly appeal to lovers of period pieces, strong women, and beautiful men who just need a little work before they become the perfect partner for their women.