Two Regency novellas of true love deep in the English countryside….Legend says that the first gentleman a lady kisses on the Duke’s Bridle Path will become her true love. Grace Burrowes and Theresa Romain say it’s not that easy…
In His Grace for the Win, by Grace Burrowes, Philippe, Duke of Lavelle, has sworn off all things equestrian after his brother’s riding accident. Just one tiny problem: The woman who steals Philippe’s heart, Harriet Talbot, loves horses, and generally only notices men when they’re in the saddle. Will Philippe rise to the challenge, or come a cropper for the sake of true love?
In Desperately Seeking Scandal, by Theresa Romain, ambitious London reporter Colin Goddard follows a trail of scandal to the Lavelle seat in Berkshire, hoping to save his career with articles on how to snare a wealthy spouse. What was intended as a humorous series turns seductive, as Lady Ada Ellis, sister to the duke, uncovers Colin’s true purpose and challenges him to a battle of wits…and wills, and hearts. But if they fall in love, one of them will lose everything. Who will triumph?
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The Duke’s Bridle Path
His Grace for the Win by Grace Burrowes
Philippe Ellis was the spare, never imagining or desiring that his older brother would be killed, and that he’d become the Duke of Lavelle. Rather than basking in the deference he now receives due to the title, Philippe prefers to escape it, and heads home to Theale Hall, with his friend, Ramsdale, in tow. Before he even reaches home, he stops to visit his lifelong friend, Harriet Talbot, whose father was once horse master for Philippe’s father, until his retirement. He now owns his own horse farm, but his failing health and aching body have caused the full burden of managing the farm to Harriet.
Harriet is overjoyed to see her friend, and we soon learn that she’s been in love with Philippe for many years, though with no expectation of his returning her feelings. Philippe is a little slower in coming to realize his feelings go beyond friendship and attraction, but soon enough their time together and some shared kisses open his eyes to the truth.
Philippe’s older brother died four years ago in a horse jump gone bad, and since that time, Philippe has avoided riding all together, preferring to travel in a carriage. He’s decided it’s time to “get back in the saddle,” and who better to help him than Harriet? It’s not an easy step into happily ever after, as there are issues with the Talbot horse farm and misunderstandings about where their affections lie that need to be worked out first.
As I always find with Grace Burrowes’ writing, HIS GRACE FOR THE WIN is strong in character development, warmth, and charm. Harriet is definitely a tenacious woman, carrying all the burdens her father can no longer handle, while having to abide by his decisions, not all of which are the best. Though a duke, Philippe is not top-lofty or arrogant, or determined that he must marry a high ranking socialite. He treats Harriet and her father with the utmost respect and caring, and is genuinely concerned about their future. Likable characters and a heart-warming romance of friends to lovers is one of my favorite tropes, and makes HIS GRACE FOR THE WIN a delight to read.
Desperately Seeking Scandal by Theresa Romain
Now that her brother, Philippe, is happily married, Lady Ada Ellis feels that it may be time for her to stop hiding out at Theale Hall. When her older brother died four years ago, the scandal sheets posted a series of provocative articles with misleading questions about his death. The backlash from those publications caused Ada’s fiancé, Lord Wrotham, who is a very strait laced and proper man, to end their engagement. Ada, in her grief and humiliation, decided to stay in the country and act as steward to Theale Hall. While shopping one day, Ada notices a young man staring at her and following her. She decides to confront him directly.
Colin Goddard is a reporter who works for the type of periodical which publishes gossip and innuendo. He intends to write a series of articles and he’s not shy about admitting that he intends to use Ada for his research, willingly or not. Surprisingly, Ada offers a bargain. Her ex-fiancé is visiting the village with his new wife, and Ada will be obliged to play hostess to them. If Colin will act as her besotted suitor while they are in town, Ada will actually help him with his articles.
During their time together, this unlikely pair begins to feel genuine attraction. As they begin to share bits and pieces of themselves, we learn that Colin is impoverished gentry, and he desperately needs funds to support himself and his brother, who suffers from a condition making it difficult for him in social situations. Colin learns how the articles from four years ago hurt Ada, and he begins to have a conscience. Meanwhile, their attraction is starting to turn to affection, and possibly something more?
DESPERATELY SEEKING SCANDAL pairs a seemingly mismatched couple, as there’s a great class distinction between a duke’s daughter and a working reporter. Their romance feels genuine, and I was rooting for them as I watched them evolve. I loved seeing Ada become strong and determined, while Colin’s eyes were opened as to how his work can hurt. Their banter was fun, and I greatly enjoyed reading DESPERATELY SEEKING SCANDAL, and I can heartily recommend both novellas in THE DUKE’S BRIDLE PATH.