Summary- This is book 4 in the Huxtable series by Mary Balogh.
Cassandra needs a protector. She is a widow whose husband died under questionable circumstances. She has no home, none of the money she should have received from her husband’s death, and 4 dependents who she refuses to let down. She sets out to find a wealthy man she can become the mistress to.
Stephen Huxtable looks like an angel. He falls into Cassandra’s arms with little resistance. But he doesn’t want a mistress. He can’t however leave the poor woman penniless and in trouble. As he tries to rescue her he quickly realizes that he wants her. Needs her. And he determines that he will marry her. Convincing her will be the hardest part.
My rating- A Balogh comes through again. I couldn’t put this book down!!!!
I really like Stephen as a character. He had an uncommonly difficult childhood for an Earl. His upbringing allows him to be a compassionate and decent man. He isn’t a saint but he also isn’t a rake and I really liked that.
I wasn’t crazy about Cassandra as a character. She was a bit too dark in places for me. And I am getting a little burned out with Balogh’s abuse of women story line. Cassandra was beaten when her husband drank. Beaten to the point she lost several pregnancies. This of course has made her bitter and a bit of a man hater.
The secondary characters in this novel were memorable and each had their own stories which I enjoyed. It was enough to create interest but not enough to overshadow the main romance. I was happy to see the return of the Huxtable sisters. I have read 3 of the books including this one. I think I am missing the first. The Huxtable sister’s really make this series for me. I like Stephen but I don’t think this book would have been nearly as good without his sisters. They bring so much to the table. I do think it is a bit of a stretch that no Huxtable can fall in love under semi normal circumstances.
I also liked that there is some mystery until the end of the novel about what really happened to Cassandra’s husband. She didn’t kill him but I wish she had. It would have been interesting to see if Stephen could forgive her murdering a man either in self defense or in defense of another person. Alas, Balogh chose a different path. I wasn’t crazy about her solution to this problem. It didn’t really ring true for me.
I was glad that everything was nicely finished and tidied up at the end of this novel. The last one left a few things unanswered and I would not have been happy if this one had done the same. All the Huxtables are now married but I know there is a book featuring their cousin. I was hoping that no important loose ends were left untied for inclusion in that book. Book # 3 of the Huxtable books left many unanswered questions and I was annoyed by that.
I do have one major complaint about this book. In two places and for 2 scenes there is a POV change to a secondary character. It felt very random and disrupted the flow of the book. Throughout the whole novel the story is told in limited third person with either Cassandra or Stephen as the perspective being followed. Then, randomly, (and the novel could have been comfortably complete without either in my opinion) there is a scene in the head of a secondary character.