When her grandfather dies and Lily Balfour hears gossip at how far her family has fallen, she begins to despair. She, her mother, her aunt, and her slightly strange cousin Pamela live in a dilapidated Tudor mansion, poor as dirt since her father died in India when she was a little girl. Some say the Balfour clan is cursed. Lily throws off that idea and decides to head to London to find a rich husband before it’s too late. In London she comes across Major Derek Knight, a war veteran from India waiting for money from his men and taking the opportunity to seduce as many women as possible while he’s there. Lily has already found a willing mate, a rich but slightly stupid man willing to infuse his low class status with Lily’s blue blood. She is irresistably attracted to Derek but must put him out of her mind for the sake of her family, at least until Derek suspects her husband-to-be of corruption. Exposing that plot will put both of them in danger of losing their lives and perhaps their hearts as well.
Oh, Gaelen Foley. I loved your books so much when I was young. Where has the spark gone, I ask? It must be true that The Spice Trilogy, of which this is the second book, is not up to your usual standards, because while I enjoyed this book, it was lacking the magic. The magic that makes me fall in love with your characters and want to read your books again and again.
I’m not sure where this went wrong. I certainly felt the sparks between the main characters and I did think they comported themselves well in their budding relationship. I loved that Lily’s cousin Pamela wrote novels and that her mother disapproved; I loved the idea of the collapsing Tudor mansion. I think my problem with this novel was the two main characters. Even though Lily is poor, she is still a fairly typical romance novel heroine. Gorgeous, submissive, the usual. She has a secret, but it’s not original or interesting, and doesn’t matter at all when she confesses it to the hero. Derek is big, manly, obsessed with war, the usual. He’s the reformed rake and while I love reformed rake stories, this one wasn’t working for me, possibly because despite the gorgeous women on his arm and in his bed, he never changes much. Their love story didn’t sweep me away.
As I said, this one’s lacking the magic. I loved Gaelen Foley because her romances always seemed a little darker than normal. One of the earlier ones had a rape scene, one featured a female bandit, and so on. This one is just a little ordinary. I think its only redeeming feature is the fact that Lily’s betrothed isn’t actually a bad man, just a desperate one. He was fairly interesting, but not enough to save this one from the “average” shelf. I enjoyed it, but it’s not converting anyone to the genre.
For a truly charming story of poor girl needs to marry rich man, go with How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn.