Grace Merridew is the youngest of her sisters, who have all gotten hitched in the previous books. She was only ten or twelve when the series started, so there’s been a bit of a timeskip and now she’s of a marriageable age. Except that she doesn’t want to get married: she’s been out on the marriage mart for a couple of years, hasn’t met anyone interesting, and so she’s decided that if she can’t have an epic love story like her sisters she’s going to go abroad and see Egypt and the pyramids. Quite a sensible decision, if you ask me. However, a friend of Grace is being roped into an arranged marriage with some guy named Dominic Wolfe (cue an excess of Big Bad Wolfe jokes) so Grace agrees to pose as her friend’s maid while she visits the house of her husband-to-be. This being a romance, Grace and Dominic meet, fall in love, have sex, and get married. Roughly in this order.
First off, do not get me started on the stupid arranged marriage plot. Usually I like arranged marriages. It’s one of my favourite tropes. Any kind of arranged marriage, or marriage of convenience. I simply love the stuff. The more ridiculous the circumstances, the better. But this time even I couldn’t stomach the patent ridiculosity of the situation. There’s a really baroque contract that’s been signed ages ago by the fathers of the bride- and groom-to-be, which says Dominic has to marry this girl or else he’ll lose his inheritance. And the girl’s father can rescind his contract, but he won’t, even though he doesn’t know Dominic at all and Dominic threatens to neglect his future wife and take a mistress and bring a scandal on both of them if he’s forced into this marriage. It’s such a ridiculous and contrived plot device and I can’t believe that such a lot of balderdash could ever be legally binding… Whoops, I got started on the stupid arranged marriage plot.
Just for that, I can’t in good faith give this book more than 3 teacups out of 5. I had to force myself to ignore the stupid ~marriage contract~ whenever it came up or I would have never made it past the first chapter. Aside from that, the book is okay. I have come to the comclusion that I prefer it when the hero is a complete scoundrel, because that way I don’t have to deal with the author’s botched attempts to paint him as a saint. Dominic is a wicked young man who doesn’t think twice about pursuing his fiancee’s maid, and that’s fine by me. Grace has a sharp tongue, like I knew from the first book, and I really enjoyed her snippy dialogue with Dominic. I didn’t laugh out loud like with The Perfect Rake but I did snicker more than once.
Like all others in this series, this book also contained a tragic backstory (yawn) and a superficial beta romance (which was at least tolerable, Dominic’s friend provided a bit of comical relief). I’m happy that we got to see a glimpse of Grace’s sisters and their husbands at the end, though of course there was not enough Gideon. There never is. I am relieved that this series is over because there’s only so many times you can retell the same basic plot, but I’d go back in a hurry if Anne Gracie gave me a second book about Prue and Gideon.