The Major’s Faux Fiancée
When Major Bartholomew Blackpool learns the girl-next-door from his childhood will be forced into an unwanted marriage, he returns home to play her pretend beau. He figures now that he’s missing a leg, a faux fiancée is the best an ex-soldier can get. He admires her pluck, but the lady deserves a whole man—and he’ll ensure she gets one.
Miss Daphne Vaughan hates that crying off will destroy Major Blackpool’s chances of finding a real bride. She plots to make him jilt her first. Who cares if it ruins her? She never wanted a husband anyway. But the major is equally determined that she break the engagement. With both of them on their worst behavior, neither expects their fake betrothal to lead to love…
The Major’s Faux Fiancée is a standalone story in the Dukes of War regency romance series, featuring roguish peers and dashing war heroes who return from battle only to be thrust into the splendor and madness of Regency England.
Release Date: June 2015 Publisher: Intrepid Reads
Daphne pulled up short the moment she saw Major Blackpool. She couldn’t help it. Her limbs had frozen in place. For a moment, she even forgot how to breathe. Her heart was the only part of her that still moved, and it was clamoring loud enough to tumble right out of her chest.
Ten years. That was how long it had been. Ten years.
The last time he’d seen her, she’d sported a pinafore and pigtails. And the last time she’d seen him…
There had been two of them.
He and Edmund had been inseparable. Indistinguishable. Always playing tricks and trading places with the other. She’d been one of the few who could tell them apart, although it didn’t matter anymore.
Now there was only one.
“Tolly,” she breathed.
The corner of his mouth quirked. “Laughy Daffy.”
Her heart thundered. His voice was so deep. So… manly. Like the rest of him. She tried not to blush. She couldn’t help but drink him in.
He was taller than she remembered. Her heart beat faster. Of course he was taller. She’d been ten or eleven years of age, and he’d been, what? A lad of fifteen, perhaps? Of course he was taller. And older.
The years had been more than kind. His brown hair was longer. Wilder. His crystalline blue eyes now had laugh lines at the edges, although she doubted he’d found much humor recently. His face was more chiseled, more defined. A faint hint of stubble darkened the line of his jaw.
That brief little quirk was already gone from his lips. She missed it.
He didn’t look like Tolly, puller of pigtails. He looked like Major Bartholomew Blackpool. Soldier. Survivor.
Everything about him was more than she’d expected. His youthful reediness was gone. Broad shoulders and thick muscles filled out a coat that looked as though it had been tailored for someone less powerful.
She’d heard he’d become a rake and a dandy. His more passionate exploits had graced every scandal sheet in the country. As for his sense of fashion… He could not have appeared more handsome if this were his wedding day.
Despite what must have been an entire day’s journey, his cravat was starched perfection. His greatcoat was similarly pristine and devoid of wrinkles. The buckskin of his breeches looked buttery soft and clung to every muscle of his thighs. His Hessians gleamed, as though they had been freshly polished moments before he walked through the door.
She blinked. Hessians. Plural. She’d heard he’d lost a leg in the war trying to save the life of his fallen twin, but as far as she could tell, the boy next door looked nothing short of perfect. No wonder he’d cut a swath through the ton as a dashing rake before setting off for war. She doubted a single bosom failed to tremble in his presence.
Heavens. Daphne wouldn’t have the slightest trouble feigning a betrothal with him. The difficulty would be pretending she wasn’t truly interested. No doubt her flushed cheeks and racing pulse had already given her away.
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Daphne Vaughan is in a dire situation. Her father is dead, and she has a pirate for a guardian who is threatening to marry her off to anyone he pleases just to get her off his hands. Daphne can’t think of anyone else to contact for help except her childhood friend, Bartholomew Blackpool. Though she hasn’t seen him for a decade, Daphne feels sure he’ll agree to her scheme of a fake betrothal. If they can just make their plan work for a short time until Daphne turns 21, she’ll come into a small inheritance. Then they can break off the engagement, she’ll no longer be ruled by her guardian, and she can start her life of service that she planned.
Major Bartholomew Blackpool was a rake, a dandy, and a sportsman. Then he and his twin brother went off to war – Bart lost part of his leg and his brother lost his life. Now all he wants to do is be a recluse. All the things he excelled at, and that gave him pleasure are part of the past. He can’t bear for anyone to see him, not even his valet. He lives a solitary life, avoiding everyone, even his parents When he receives Daphne’s letter, he decides that he must help her, and reluctantly leaves his safe zone.
The major’s little childhood friend is now a lovely woman, who swears she doesn’t want to marry. All Daphne wants is her independence. Her father was the vicar, so her life has been pretty much in service to others, and that’s what she wants to continue to do. She is already organizing and planning, using various assumed names. Bart agrees to her scheme. However, it seems that in order to convince everyone (including the pirate-guardian) that the engagement is real, they will have to go to town and be seen together as a courting couple. This is something neither wants to do, as the Major is full of guilt and shame, and Daphne wants to just continue with her work.
It was painful to go along on the Major’s journey. Although the life he lived before the war was pretty shallow, he came back feeling that he was nothing, that he didn’t deserve to live when his brother died. He decided that he couldn’t bear for anyone to ever see his damaged body. While he tried to put up a good front for Daphne and his former friends, he was still letting himself be defined by his physical imperfections and limitations.
As for Daphne, she has spent her life trying to be the perfect daughter, doing everything just right, so her father would love her. She let herself be defined by her work.
Daphne and Bart soon find themselves falling for each other, and determined to do nothing about it. They are both basically very good people who are afraid. This story explored their developing trust, their attraction, their love, and finally their confrontation of their fears. I found this book to be well written, enjoyable, and real. While I fully understood how their circumstances would cause them to act as they did, I was cheering them on to their happy ever after. I look forward to reading more by Erica Ridley in the future, and recommend The Major’s Faux Fiancee
Erica Ridley is a USA Today best-selling author of historical romance novels. Her latest series, The Dukes of War, features roguish peers and dashing war heroes who return from battle only to be thrust into the splendor and madness of Regency England.
When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found riding camels in Africa, zip-lining through rainforests in Costa Rica, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.
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