I read and absolutely loved the prequel to this book, The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation, where we are introduced to the Duke of Ravenwood’s sister, Lady Amelia. In this novel, The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower (Dukes of War Book #1) by Erica Ridley, we meet the four friends who have been torn apart by the Napoleonic Wars. Bart is missing a leg and has been holed up in his home, a shadow of his former self. It is only because of his loyalty to Oliver that he attends his marriage. Xavier has been in a catatonic state since the war, but oddly revives enough to witness the compromising situation between Oliver and Grace which leads to their engagement, before he reverts back into his shell. Ravenwood had to forgo the battles and remain in England, although he is inwardly torn apart by his friends post traumatic stress. Missing is Edmund, the father of Miss Sara Fairfax’s unborn child, as well as Bart’s Twin. Finally, we have Oliver North, the new Earl of Carlisle, whose father has recently died and left his son penniless with a large estate to support. These are the stories Ridley explores in the upcoming Dukes of War series.
So, the almost penniless Oliver needs a rich wife in order to restore his home to its former glory, but who will marry someone who has sold off any worldly good that has a value, perhaps even the infamous painting of his cousin, The Black Prince. Then there is Yankee Grace Halton, a macaroni from the states. Despite her beauty, she is not accepted by the ton, although the “gentlemen” would be more than happy to oblige her in the bedroom. Oliver sees a lovely young women forced into the background as a wallflower. Gallantly he asks her to dance, even though they haven’t been formerly introduced, after which Ravenwood also asks for the privilege, and Grace suddenly finds her dance card full. Oliver is intrigued by the open and honest Grace, but she needs a wealthy, titled husband who is willing to let her return to America and nurse her mother back to health. By marrying a title, her grandparents will bestow a thousand pound dowry to her new husband. Despite the fact that her grandparents are wealthy from dealings in the war, they have become stingy with their love since their daughter ran off to America. Grandmother Mayer is especially vicious, throwing her mother’s lack of loyalty and respect up into Grace’s face every chance she gets. Her grandfather stays out of the turmoil, but allows his wife to have her way in order to keep the peace. A series of events leads to a compromising situation between Oliver and Grace, resulting in an unexpected proposal and marriage. Events rapidly unfold and even if the two don’t have the funds necessary to solve their problems, they do have an attraction – even a love – for one another which seems more important than money. In the end, all issues are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, even Grandmother Mayer.
The premise was far fetched, stretching the boundaries of realism even for a fiction book. Although I like stories with a satisfying ending all tied up in a neat bow, in this case you need to suspend all common sense to accept the “O’Henry” style wrap up. Despite this, the two main characters are a delight and I found myself rooting for them to find the true love which is implied by their thoughts. I had a problem with Grace’s reactions to her introduction to sexual favors which were just a little too knowledgable for a young virgin, even one at twenty two. That aside, Ridley is an expert in her description of passionate scenes. I simply loved the wedding night nuptials. My main disappointment was the repetition of the main character’s thoughts. Don’t keep trying to say the same thing in different ways, but inform your reader using “show, don’t tell”.
However, I am looking forward to find out what happens next. Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Intrepid Reads for sending me this ARC in exchange for a honest review.