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    A delightful debut

    A delightful debut, Lisa Berne has created a couple that we follow through their journey of self-discovery and learning what truly matters in life. While they share the loss of their parents and being orphaned that is where the similarities end. She is taken in grudgingly by an aunt and uncle and money is scarce and affection and attention are nonexistent. He becomes the ward of his grandmother who while she takes an interest in his life, it is to dictate and orchestrate. Livia Stuart is the recipient of charity from one of the MOST annoyingly narcissistic girl I am very glad never to have met in person, the Honorable Miss Cecily Orr. She is talked down to and required to say thank you for the privilege of being treated poorly. She knows what she does not want, but doesn’t dare to dream. At 18 she knows that her prospects are all but non-existent and tries not to think about it too hard. Gabriel Penhallow has enjoyed the carefree life of a man of leisure and was a member of the Diplomatic Corps. He views marriage as a duty and has allowed his grandmother to choose his bride. He is confident in his world, of his income and that everyone is thrilled to be seen by him and near him. The first meeting of our couple brought a smile to my face. He is lost and assumes she is a simpleton servant and talks down to her. Livia has had enough of sanctimonious people so she plays along and sends him on a very merry chase with directions that take him a good two hours instead of the 20 minutes it would have taken had he used manners and not been a bit of a bully. The bulk of the story revolved around Livia and Gabriel getting to know each other after they suffer a scandal and become betrothed. His grandmother runs roughshod over Livia trying to turn her into a vapid debutante. He avoids her because she makes him start to examine his long-held thought that Penhallow’s are superior and he is in charge in their relationship. Livia just wants to be loved and wanted for herself. She is happiest in the country and we see her become confident and start to dream of what could be. I enjoyed the book, but am still not sure of Gabriel’s actual status, he is always addressed as Mr. Penhallow. It is never mentioned but he has substantial holdings, many tenants and other family members that he is responsible for. It is mentioned that “the Penhallows came to England with the Conqueror, you know, and it is said that the Conqueror bowed to them.” Also, there seemed to be some confusion with Cecily’s status- when we first met her she was the daughter of the Right Honorable Viscountess Glanville, then her status is elevated later in the book to daughter of an earl. Having read historical romances for a good while, this confusion and lack of information kept popping into my head as I was reading and it bothered me enough to subtract one (1) star from my rating. The moments where we have Livia and Gabriel in the same room are pleasant, but too infrequent. There seem to be places where a conversation would have helped the story along instead of just “listening” to their thoughts on the situation. I enjoyed the times where we saw Livia taking Gabriel to task for his arrogance and sometimes lack of interest in their relationship. The very fact that he was willing to let his aging grandmother choose his life partner was alarming, arranged marriages of the times aside. He had opportunities to speak up for himself and to defend Livia but chose to remain silent. The secondary characters are priceless. Grandmother, Mrs. Penhallow, is a piece of work; arrogant, rude and so incredibly full of her own self-importance that she sees nothing wrong in bullying Livia and talking down to her. Then we have the Right Honorable Lady Granville who reminds me of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. These women are an over the top example of the Ton and its belief that they are superior to everyone not within their circle. Yes, the road to the HEA was at times arduous, but the whole was delightful. I look forward to Gabriel’s cousin Hugo’s story. He is charming, a bit clueless at times, but has a good grasp of what matters and doesn’t take life too seriously. I do not know who else is part of the Penhallow Dynasty however, I look forward to meeting them and watching them fall in love and find their “one.” I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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    Fantastic Debut!

    Being as this is a debut novel, I was not expecting a very well done thing. I was expecting a first novel. I was completely wrong! Ms. Berne writes like a seasoned author! I was happily surprised! The depth of character in this novel is wonderful! Livia Stuart is an orphan. Taken in, reluctantly, by her relatives. She has been provided with just enough to live. Food, threadbare clothing, and nothing else. And then to realize how lucky she is to have had that. Her "Frenemy," Miss Cecily Orr, points out what Livia is lacking at every opportunity. I truly hate people like Miss Orr. They put others down so they can feel better about themselves. Truly a nasty thing to do! I really wanted to punch her in the nose! She is rich and has had everything that Livia has not. But I am sure that is what the author was going for! Miss Orr has set her sites on Gabriel Penhallow. He is from one of the most aristocratic families. One who NEVER marries for love. A family who men have generally married, produced an heir and then never saw their spouse, unless it was by accident it seems. Sad to think these types of families actually existed, but I am sure they did! Gabriel is pretty sure he will be happy to marry someone with breeding and wealth and then go about his life in the same way as always with no consideration for this "wife." Poor Gabriel didn't expect Livia at all! Before we know it, there is an incident and things change for both our parties. Reluctant and unsure they move forward and let providence take over! I loved this story! A poor girl from nowhere and with no one can make good and a rich snob can be brought down out of the clouds and see the "real" things in life! The author brings emotion and intrigue and I enjoyed every minute of it. I look forward to the next book in the series and hope for many more to come. There are so many interesting secondary characters as to keep me seeking the stories to come. Congratulations to the author on her debut novel, one for the "re-read"self for certain! *Courtesy copy received with no expectations of review*
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