The Heir by Grace Burrowes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow, it's kind of rare these days I read 2 really good romances in a row. The hero is the heir to a dukedom (thus the title) and his name is Gayle! That's worse than a man named Tracy, tantamount to a boy named Sue, and makes me think of a schoolgirl from the 1970s. But anyway, this poor man has taken on the responsibilities of the dukedom from his semi-irresponsible father, and is under increasing pressure from his father to marry. Pressure, as in his father instigates a stupid-ass scheme with his mistress, motivating the mistress to get pregnant by someone else, thereby foiling himself. But still-- intrusive and embarrassing and awkward and SO not what you want dear old dad to be doing. So you'd think our hero's life would take a turn for the worse when his housekeeper THINKS she sees him molesting a maid (he's not) and whacks him with a poker. But as she nurses his wounds, they start developing an affection for each other that soon leads to love. But the housekeeper, our heroine, Anna, has secrets of her own, and despite the fact that Gayle (fortunately his first name is rarely mentioned. He's usually referred to by title or as "the earl") wants to marry her, she continually refuses. OH, what secret could she be hiding?
The complexity of family relationships--between parents and children and between siblings are well-explored in this novel--especially in the hero's family, which stands in stark contrast with the relationships in the heroine's family. This romance is not content to explore the surface of emotions but dives in, deep. But the small details are also well-portrayed--Anna's nurturing aspect is illustrated, for example, as she directly cares for the hero (I can't say Gayle. I can't) in injury and illness, and as she makes sure he always has fresh flowers in the house and his favorite candies to eat, invites his brothers to stay with him, and in many other ways acts like his wife except for the issue of not saying yes to his proposals.
There were some weird oddities in the book. It claims to be set during a heat wave which apparently lasts a couple of months, whereas this book is set in England where it rarely gets hot and never for long (then again, I suppose an English person would find 80 degrees unbearably hot, so I guess it's what it's what you're used to--but months? really?). And also some social things seemed kind of off, like a courtesan being an appropriate marriage prospect for an aristocrat. And the hero's name, oh, dear, the hero's name. But these were small things compared to the overall book. The charm of this romance (and it is very charming) isn't the plot, which is hardly original in its overview, but the execution, which is very well-done indeed.
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