Along Came a Lady
by Christi Caldwell
All the Duke's Sins - Book 1
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Reviewed by PJ
Rafe Audley lives to thwart his father, the Duke of Bentley. The ne’er do well who abandoned his children claims he wants to make up for his failures, but Rafe only cares about protecting the people of his mining community and providing for his three siblings, who've been his sole responsibility since childhood. So far, Rafe has turned away the duke's man of affairs, solicitor, and other interlopers, until the clever duke sends the unlikeliest of people to convince Rafe to join English High Society—a bold and intriguing woman.
Edwina Dalrymple has never failed a charge. She's quite adept at successfully transforming young women of the gentry and daughters of newly minted lords to take their place in society. Taming a bastard son of a duke will be child's play, plus this job promises to enhance her reputation within the ton. All she has to do is fetch the wayward Rafe and groom him to be presentable to Polite Society.
As the tenacious teacher and her domineering, stubborn, refuses-to-be-taught pupil engage in a fiery battle of wills, their chemistry ignites and the true lesson becomes clear: opposites attract and hearts must be heard.
Christi Caldwell launches her new series with a story that reeled me in and kept me entertained from start to finish. First of all there's the setup: duke discovers his deceased mistress gave birth to four children (his) and is determined to bring them (now adults) to London to take their rightful places in society, beginning with the oldest, Rafe. A gruff, broody, coalfield foreman, Rafe wants no part of the man he believes knew about them all along and only now wants to acknowledge them. Edwina is an accomplished governess/tutor who would give anything for the opportunity being handed to Rafe and needs the opportunity successful completion of this task will bring her. She's not about to let muddy coalfields, abrasive townspeople, or a scheming, grouchy man - even if he is gorgeous, surprisingly caring, and knows his way around a kitchen - derail her mission. Let the fun begin!
The sparks that these two set off could start a forest fire. I love the snappy banter, the unexpectedly sweet moments, the humor, and the battle of wills that ensue as these strong-willed characters go head to head. They both stretch, grow, and slowly unveil facets of their characters that are only brought out by the other. They are so much fun to watch evolve and grow closer together even though Edwina knows nothing can ever come of that closeness. Or can it?
Caldwell is so good at creating a sense of place. I had no trouble at all envisioning the atmosphere of the perilous, muddy coalfields (a definite Poldark vibe and, yes, I did happily envision Rafe as a deliciously gruff Aiden Turner through the entire book), the dark but lively village pub (Regency "karaoke" scene is *chef's kiss*), and the duke's grand mansion. Her vivid descriptions bring the reader into the scene, no longer an observer but a part of the actual story.
The sibling dynamic is also very realistic with each of the Audley siblings holding their own unique place in the family. I'm already invested in all of them and eager to read each of their stories.
My only quibble with the book (and it's small considering how much I enjoyed this story) is that the ending seemed a bit rushed, especially as it pertains to Edwina's family situation. That was such an important part of her character; I really wanted to see it given more attention. As for Rafe and Edwina, I was happily satisfied with the outcome of their relationship and am looking forward to following their progress as a couple through Rafe's siblings' stories.
It's worth noting that Caldwell has written a prequel novella to this series which tells the duke's story. It Had to Be the Duke is a heart-tugging, second-chance love story that can be read either before or after Along Came a Lady. I adored it.
Have you read Christi Caldwell yet?
Do you enjoy a rollicking battle of wills between lead characters?
Who is your favorite battle of wills pairing (books, movies, tv)?
One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, August 25 will receive a print copy of Along Came a Lady.
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