The Fairest of Them All by Cathy Maxwell (Marrying the Duke #2)

Synopsis:

26242359The penniless orphan of a disreputable earl, Lady Charlene Blanchard thrives on the adventure of picking the pockets of unsavory gentlemen to survive. But due to her extraordinary beauty and prized bloodlines, she is hand-chosen as a potential bride for the Duke of Baynton, who is on the hunt for a suitable wife to provide heirs. All Char has to do is act the part she was born to play and charm a duke she’s never laid eyes on into proposing. Except the duke turns out to be the tall, dark and sexy stranger who just caught her red-handed as a thief!

Or is he? Jack Whitridge is the duke’s twin who had “gone missing” over ten years ago. Now back in England, he knows that the supposed Lady who has his brother’s love is hardly duchess material—except he needs her to save his adopted country from war. He is willing to bargain with her heart, until he finds himself falling for Char….

Review:

The jacket copy drew me right in – twins!  A heroine that’s a pickpocket!  While I did enjoy those aspects other elements ended up being hit or miss.

The good:

  • The War of 1812 is brought into the plot in a realistic and interesting way.  It made me wonder why more Regencies don’t mention it!
  • A virgin hero!
  • I like that the twins are fraternal and there’s no identity switching after some initial confusion.  I haven’t read many twin romances so I’m enjoying the trope.
  • Char dresses up like a guy, which usually bothers me, but everyone sees through her disguise as soon as they stop to look at her. It’s realistic and appreciated – it’d be nice if more books could get this right.  I’m looking at you, The Rogue Not Taken!
  • This book works well as a standalone (I haven’t read the first) and easily introduces you to the concept of the series.  It’s an interesting idea to link several books together and I’m curious how Maxwell will continue.

The so-so:

  • We spend a lot of time watching the heroine with the not-hero.  It shows that they might grow to love each other but yeah, it’s not a love match.

The not-so-good:

  • The heroine is told early on that of course the duke will notice her at the ball because she is so special.  Special!  She just has that stuff that guys fall for.  …oookay.
  • I would have liked more interactions between the eventually-hero and Char.  I get why he kept his distance when he did, but it makes their declarations of love feel like too much too fast.
  • I’m worried that the not-hero is now irredeemable.  He says some stuff that ruffles my feathers and make me want to write him off, but it looks like he’s the hero-hero of the next book.  So… hmm.

All in all a decent read but it didn’t capture my imagination.

Thanks to Avon and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.

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