A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell (Marrying the Duke #3)

Synopsis:

28819991A duke can’t marry just anyone. His wife must be of good family, be fertile, be young. Struggling playwright Sarah Pettijohn is absolutely the last woman Gavin Whitridge, Duke of Baynton, would ever fall in love with. She is an actress, born on the wrong side of the blanket, and always challenges his ducal authority. She never hesitates to tell him what she thinks.

However, there is something about her that stirs his blood… which makes her perfect for a bargain he has in mind: In exchange for backing her play, he wants Sarah to teach him about love.

And he, in turn, has a few things to teach her about men…

Review:

A fun read that did some things really, really well.

The good:

  • Our heroine Sarah is strong and confident and happy in her own skin. She’s doing what she wants with her life and it’s refreshing and wonderful to watch. Some people may doubt the likelihood of the plot so Maxwell shares some of her research in an afterward.
  • Many Regencies talk about mistresses, often in the context of “oh no you don’t” or “I can’t believe he/she did”. Here we get to see that experience from the other side and how the transaction often worked.
  • The plot moves at a nice clip with some effective external conflict. I like how it stayed just this side of romantic suspense, with realistic but not overly done angst.
  • Some prickly situations come up where I thought, there is only one way this can end well. If the character does one of these ten other things I would be so mad… but it always ended that one way, well. Phew.
  • Virgin hero, yea!
  • Not being able to have children, and what it would have meant at this time in history, is thoughtfully and compassionately considered. I was afraid it would be a “barren until you” storyline but the issue is handled realistically and well. Kudos to Maxwell.

The neither-good-nor-bad:

  • This book qualifies as a Regency-not-in-a-ballroom, which is kind of amazing considering nearly all of the action is set in London.

The not-so-good:

  • The first chapter is pure info dump, and even so I didn’t realize that I had already read the second book of this series. Oops. Partly because…
  • In book two of this series the Duke comes off as a boor, while here he seems like a totally different person. If you read this as a standalone you won’t notice, though.
  • The hero, who we are told has zero experience “knowing” a woman, still manages to give the heroine an orgasm effortlessly on the first try. Sigh.
  • The plot is telegraphed, sometimes chapters in advance. The suspense factor is low so it wasn’t a deal breaker, but I don’t think the twists had the effect the author intended.

Overall I enjoyed A Date at the Altar as a quick, satisfying read despite the nitpicks.

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