Summary- Duncan Pennethorne is back. Five years ago he ran away on the eve of his wedding with the bride’s sister in law. Now, she is dead and his funds have been cut off. He must marry in 2 weeks or he will lose his financial support until his grandfather (who is in good health and too mean to die anyways) finally kicks the bucket. He wouldn’t mind working for his living if he didn’t have dependents. One of them a four year old boy named Toby.
Margaret Huxtable has given up her youth raising her younger siblings. When an unusual set of circumstances forces her to create the lie that she and Duncan are married Duncan is only too happy to make it the truth. But, can he convince Margaret that things are not all what they seem?
My rating- A
I really enjoyed this book. This is the second Huxtable family book I have read and I really enjoy the characters. Margaret is a very responsible woman who is easy for me to relate to as I am a mother and she is a very motherly character.
Duncan may have a bad reputation but we quickly learn that he is the good guy (even if he broke a few laws to rescue a damsel in distress).
I really enjoyed Duncan’s back story and I was so glad that Margaret was developed as a character who could give Duncan a chance and believe his story. Still, she has many moments of doubts in the book and I actually got quite aggravated with her at times. I felt like the story could have had her less sure that he was trying to deceive her at every turn.
My biggest complaint about this novel is that there was a lot of potential for a heartwarming story between Margaret and Toby. I felt very gypped that she meets Toby fairly close to the end of the novel. Toby doesn’t like her at first (we assume this had to do with his real mother’s mental health issues) and refuses to call her mother. Their time together is mostly summarized with few scenes showing them bonding. Then, in a minute of panic he calls her mama. I just felt like there was a lot of potential for a heartwarming story here and it was passed over. I would have been willing to give up some scenes of Margaret being unsure of Duncan and his love and traded them for Margaret and Toby bonding.
I also was not happy that the book ended shortly after Margaret finds out she is carrying a child. I did start to read the next book but I really prefer when romance writers give me the closure of at least knowing if the happy couple has a son or daughter. In this book it is especially important because Duncan tells his grandpa he will have an heir in the nursery a year after the marriage. I would have liked to know at the end of this book if Duncan was correct or not. Instead, I had to wait for the next book which is Stephen’s story.
I also felt that this book pushed the limits of believably in some places. Particularly in the Toby story. It would have been more believable perhaps if it was set up differently. But, it felt like Balogh pulled an explanation for Toby out of her rear end. The reader is thinking that Toby either has to belong to Duncan or to Toby’s mother’s husband (who was abusive and who she ran away from). Balogh couldn’t go with either of these and the final explanation was just a bit much.
I am also noticing a recurring theme of abuse of women in Balogh’s books. I think it is important to portray women realistically in historical fiction and to be honest about the challenges they have faced but of the last 6 books I have read by Balogh 4 have women who are abused one way or another. And in this book the abuse of Toby’s mother is so extreme it is almost not believable. It does create drama and make for a good story but it can feel repetitive and tedious too.