Maria Martingale was going to elope. But Phillip Hawthorne, Marquess of Kayne, put a stop to those plans when he learned his younger brother intended to marry a cook's daughter. Now, twelve years later, Maria discovers that the man who holds her fate in his hands is none other than the haughty gentleman who sent her packing--and he's as handsome and arrogant as ever.
Happily Ever After?
Always the proper gentleman, Phillip will do anything to protect his family from scandal, and when Maria dares to move in right next door, he knows scandal will surely follow. She is as tempting as he remembered . . . and the more he sees her, the harder it is for Phillip to keep his own secret desire for her a secret . . .
The last new LLG books have been hit or miss with me (the last one especially was a miss) but I bought this book before I read the last one, at a signing Laura was at last fall, and now, a year later, I finally felt up to giving it a try.
And I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Right from the start I felt pulled into the story. Maria Martingale was a woman determined to make a success of her bakery, and she wasn't about to let anything, much less her worst enemy, stop her from achieving her fondest dream. She'd given up so much, lost so much, and her desire to make her bakery the best patisserie in the city of London is what's driving her now. Having found the perfect location to set up shop, she's dismayed to learn that not only is Phillip Hawthorne temporarily living right next door, he owns the building she's trying to lease. Once again this proper gentleman, who thinks he knows exactly how everyone should live their lives, is trying to control her's, and Maria must break a promise in order to get Phillip to relent.
Phillip now looks upon Maria as an opportunist gold digger, but that was not always the case. Having grown up together - Maria's father was the chef for Phillip's family - Maria and Phillip were once good friends. But then time apart and the reality of their social positions had Phillip pushing Maria away, until it became clear that he didn't want anything to do with her. And when his younger brother and Maria decided to marry, he sufficiently nips that in the bud before any harm is done.
Now, over a decade later, Maria shows up and is once again wreaking havoc with Phillip's carefully planned out life. Lawrence is just about set to propose to a very acceptable young woman, yet the timing is a very delicate thing, and Phillip tries to ensure that Maria will not set her sights on his brother again. So between keeping them apart and dealing with his overwhelming yet unwanted desire for her, Phillip has his hands full of drama, which is what he's tried to avoid. But he just can't keep away from that stubborn, fearless woman who enflames his passions and makes him forget all that is proper....
This was a wonderful book, for the most part. You see, Phillip suffers from Mr. Darcy Syndrome. Miss Maria Martingale (aka Miss Elizabeth Bennett) is way beneath Phillip in social status, and while he admits to his intense attraction to her, it is with the utmost reluctance and distain. But he is too much of a gentleman to offer to make Maria his mistress. Instead he proposes marriage, and the idea that he would wish to marry her just to get into her bed is ludicrous in Maria's eyes. Why, if he cannot even like her, much less respect her, what chance did they have of sustainng a happy marriage? Smart girl she was, to reject his proposal and let him stew in his frustration awhile.
I liked Maria pretty much through the whole book, until the very last page anyway. She was hard-working, disciplined yet passionate, ambitious, and confident in her talent. She didn't let Phillip intimidate her, yet she was a caring person and his abandonment of their friendship hurt her very deeply. Yet she refused to let it hold her back or make her hard and bitter. She stood up to Phillip, and before too long their past came back to remind them of why they once were friends.
Phillip started out a jackass, much like Mr. Darcy did in P&P, but he eventually warmed up and won me over. See he had what he believed to be inappropriate feelings for Maria, even back then when she was 15 and he was 17, and he was appalled by this. So much so that it was easier for him to abruptly severe their friendship than risk getting to close to her.
Secret love is one of my favorite tropes. I am a complete sucker when the hero has strong feelings for the heroine yet hides them from her for what he thinks are valid reasons. Here, I could understand and perhaps even appreciate where he was coming from, especially when now, as a grown man, he gets to know Maria all over again, by watching her at her place of business, by seeing how carefree yet responsible she is, and his feelings re-awaken. Though he tries to deny them for most of the book, he more than makes up for it on the last page. I could have kissed him, he was so scrumptious. (Note: and the guy on the stepback cover? If he was Phillip I think I'd jump him myself)
So everything was going great, I was happy, this was a wonderfully romantic story, until Maria goes and knocks the wind out of my sails with a decision that had me slapping my forehead. I'm not going to give it away, so you're going to have to read the book to find out, but let's just say I really did not see it coming. Maybe I should have, but man, seriously??? And okay, maybe it wasn't even what she decided so much as how she decided. I wanted to shake her for disappointing me. Up until that point the book was a gem. And then the last few pages just jarred me out of my romantic euphoria.
I'm sure most readers won't have a problem with it like I did. After all, it really is a good romance, one that gave me butterflies, and I love when that happens because it's such a rare occurrence when I read anymore. So I'll be grateful for those moments of it I did have, and ignore the rest. Overall the book made me supremely happy :)
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****