My rating: The view was nice, but the food was bad (2/5)
This is going to be a quick and short review today, because this book was also quick and short. An Illicit Engagement is Cecilia Gray’s second novella in The Gentlemen Next Door series. This is an entire series of novellas and finishing this one, I have now read the entire series.
I picked up book 1, A Delightful Arrangement as a freebie and quite enjoyed the quick, romantic tale. I tend to enjoy novellas, especially when I’m strapped for time. A Delightful Arrangement proved to be quite a lot of fun, as did the other novellas in the series; however, I do feel that Delightful Arrangement was the best of the bunch and the one that I felt told the most complete romantic story. An Illicit Engagement uses the tried a true fake engagement plot device. Chastity Drummond is on a husband hunt. She’s looking for someone that will benefit her father’s company and help run it. Unfortunately, the man that Chastity sets her sights on does not know she exists. So, Chastity enlists the help of her neighbour Lord Lucas Willoughby, also known as the Matchmaking Baron. He’s had six fiances jilt him only to marry elsewhere, and advantageously at that. Naturally, Chastity feels that being “engaged” to Lucas will draw attention to her and result in her engagement to the man that she’s really after. The only problem is that Chastity doesn’t love her mark, and her mercenary ideal is complicated by her very real feelings for Lucas. Lucas is also none too pleased that Chastity is going to use him to find another man, especially when he realizes that he’d really like this engagement to stick.
While I wasn’t as fond of An Illicit Engagement as I was of the first book, I still enjoyed reading it. The premise was great and the characters were charming. Chastity and Lucas already knew one another, so the romance itself was believable in the extremely constrained page count. So why the low rating?
What I liked about A Delightful Arrangement was the fact that there is a much broader picture of the hero and heroine’s relationship; the development is there and I buy their happily-ever-after. This was not the case in An Illicit Engagement. The majority of this book is spent with Chastity and Lucas at odds with her idea for a fake engagement. I liked the sparing and the disagreements between these two, the tension was great and exactly what’s needed in a romance. However, the resolution between these two is wrapped up very quickly and has Lucas behaving in a rather high-handed manner. For me, the happily-ever-after isn’t there. I feel potential for it, but I ended the novella thinking “that’s it?” I wanted to know what happened after the final scene.
While I didn’t love An Illicit Engagement, it is still a cute read. I enjoy the author’s writing style and I would be curious to read a full-length historical romance from her. Ultimately, this book is cute, but I think readers should be aware going in that there are not going to get a complete novel, meaning there’s a bit of a lack of completion with this one. I recommend it with some reservations, but I think readers should start with A Delightful Arrangement.
*Review copy via NetGalley.
Like An Illicit Engagement, Ally Broadfield’s It’s in His Kiss is also founded on the premise of a fake engagement. The hero and heroine decide to pretend to be engaged in order to find other suitors. Like Chastity and Lucas, their attraction gets the better of them. While It’s in His Kiss is also novella length, it is still lengthier and offers a more complete resolution.
Daring Miss Danvers is another fake engagement tale and will likely appeal if you enjoyed An Illicit Engagement‘s lighthearted tone. This time it’s the hero that needs the pretend betrothal since it’s the only way he’s likely to claim his inheritance.
My last recommendation has be one of my favourite fake engagements in historical romance. In The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton there’s memory loss, cauliflower hair, a kidnapping following a disastrous trip back to civilization. I’ve included this one because, like An Illicit Engagement, it capitalizes on the silly, and it does it well.