Lilian and the Irresistible Duke by Virginia Heath
While this is the fourth in a multi-author miniseries about a Victorian family, you don’t need to have read the other three to follow the plot of this one, though there is a charming reunion scene at the end where you’ll get to revisit favourites from other books if you’ve been following along.
The first three books in the series featured the three adult children of the Fairclough family finding their happily ever afters; this final book features their widowed mother, Lilian, who at forty-five with her children all grown and married finds herself in something of a mid-life crisis. She’s become surplus to requirements in her own life, and she’s clearly at a crossroads, unsure of what path her life will take from here on out. Convinced to accompany her relative Alexandra on a trip to Rome, she almost immediately encounters Pietro, an arrogant duke with whom she had a previous encounter in London. An encounter which involved a kiss.
Lilian is a delightful heroine, one mature enough to have no truck with games, something she makes clear to Pietro at the outset and reinforces whenever he attempts to dismiss her concerns. While she and Pietro are both widowers, they have very different backstories; Lilian loved her husband, whereas Pietro’s marriage was a disaster, making him deeply cynical about love. The pair fall in love over a shared passion for art, and the descriptions of Rome as it must have been seen through Victorian eyes are a delight to read, the author having obviously deeply immersed themselves in research of the location and period.
Because this is a romance, everything gets resolved in the end, of course, though there was one question I genuinely thought needed addressing, which was the question of Pietro’s heir. It seemed an obvious question for Lilian, at least, to ask; a duke without a son must want an heir, and why wouldn’t Pietro therefore be seeking a bride of childbearing age? Honestly it would have been a simple matter to include a younger brother/nephew/cousin who is a fine, responsible young man and therefore remove the concern, but since it wasn’t addressed, I was left to wonder. It was a small niggle, though, and one which didn’t spoil my genuine enjoyment of this second-chance romance with a couple both in middle age. Five stars for a delightful read.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via Rachel’s Random Resources.