Sometimes happily ever after…
Anthony Hurst, Duke of Kingsborough knows the time has come for him to produce an heir. But first he must find a bride. When he meets the most exquisite woman at his masquerade ball, he thinks his search is over…until the breathtaking beauty runs off. With few clues other than her figure, her scent, and the memory of her kiss, Anthony must find his mystery lady.
…needs a little bit of help.
Isabella Chilcott can scarcely believe it: she is finally at the Kingsborough Ball. As a child, she dreamed of dancing a waltz here and now, thanks to a gorgeous gown she’s found in the attic, Isabella is living her fairytale fantasy. And she’s waltzing with the Duke of Kingsborough himself! But she must escape before he discovers her secrets…for she is not who she pretends to be, and falling in love with Prince Charming is the last thing she can allow herself to do…
Anthony Hurst and his family have been in mourning. His father died just over a year ago after years of pain and suffering and Anthony and his mother, who was always by her husband’s side, need to move on. It’s hard on all of them but Anthony knows that they can’t live in the past. To get his mother to start trying to live again, Anthony talks his mother into hosting one of her infamous Kingsborough Balls and while she still mourns, her days are taken up with organizing the event. Anthony also looks at the ball as an opportunity to find a bride – which is surprising to everyone as up until his father got sick he was a notorious rake. His father’s death, however, shed light on the fact that life is fragile and Anthony realizes he shouldn’t wait any longer to marry and produce an heir.
Isabella has always dreamed of attending a Kingsborough ball. She used to watch the fireworks that they had at midnight and dream of how romantic it would be. She loves fairy tales despite how her mother tries to discourage her from doing so and the ball has always felt like the biggest fairy tale of all. Isabella isn’t living a fairy tale though. She’s been courted by a Mr. Roberts who is Isabella’s father’s boss and her parents are anxious to see the two married. Isabella and her family are pretty poor but Mr. Roberts could change that as he is a carriage maker and quite wealthy. The problem is – Isabella doesn’t like him. She’s willing to do what she needs to do for her family but Mr. Roberts is dour and controlling. When Isabella and her sister Jamie hear that a Kingsborough ball is going to occur Jamie talks Isabella into attending saying that this will be the last time she’ll actually be able to attempt this because she’ll soon be marrying Mr. Roberts (though he hadn’t actually proposed yet). She wears the gorgeous gown that they found hidden in the attic (a dress they were never allowed to talk about) and sneaks into the ball with the help of a relative. She is blown away by the beauty of the ball – the décor, the gowns the ladies wear, the men in their finery – but nothing is as beautiful as the Duke of Kingsborough. When she meets him she is enthralled and they can’t seem to spend enough time with each other.
Anthony is enthralled with the masked woman who he knows wasn’t actually invited. Anthony’s family figured it out but as Anthony was so taken with the woman his mother didn’t actually throw her out. Isabella tries to talk herself and Anthony into believing that nothing could work between them (without telling him that she’s poor) because she’s practically engaged. That “practically” has Anthony on alert as that means she’s not yet taken. After a wonderful night Isabella escapes but Anthony isn’t willing to give up and searches the nearby town for her. He finally finds her but her parents as well as Isabella aren’t open to his suit and turn him down. Luckily Anthony doesn’t give up easily as he knows this is the woman for him.
Isabella knows that she has to marry Mr. Roberts but she doesn’t understand her mother’s hatred of the aristocracy. Because of this she’s told she can’t marry the duke even though she has fallen in love with him. Between her parents and some vicious rumor spreaders Isabella fears that Anthony will be scared off and she longs for nothing more than to be with him forever.
I loved Anthony’s character and actually thought it was amusing that he kept digging himself into a deeper hole with his family and Isabella’s family almost every time he opened his mouth. That part wasn’t intended to be humorous, I’m sure, but I guess I could see how he was screwing up and loved how made amends. Yes, he had been a rake but he had changed his ways and while his fascination with Isabella might have started off as lust it soon turned to love and Barnes did a great job of showing us that transformation.
Isabella was a bit harder to like. I very much enjoyed her personality at the ball but after that I was concerned by her wishy-washyness. I know this stemmed from the struggle she was having with her feelings for Anthony as opposed to her feelings of obligation & loyalty to her family but I found her hot and cold attitude to be a bit grating. That being said, once she finally admitted to herself that she loved Anthony things smoothed out considerably and was quite enjoyable.
From this story I believe we will get book 2 in the series as there was an incident at the Kingsborough ball, not involving Anthony or Isabella, that kind of went nowhere. I came to the conclusion that the future story will probably run simultaneously with book one. Not a bad idea but a bit odd to have such a major event happen in this book and then have it almost ignored for the rest of the book.
This is charming story about secrets, family obligation, more secrets, and of course, love and romance. It had humor blended in with the deeper emotions and I love it when those two mix, it just makes for a great story.
Rating: 4 out of 5
4 hours ago