Cheers to Charis Michaels with the release of the second book in her Brides of Belgravia series, this one tackles a difficult situation with tact, care, and a wonderfully unorthodox hero in
All Dressed in White
Taking an unconventional bride, one of the group of three young women who advertised for husbands in return for a healthy dowry and transport to London, there to be left alone to make their own lives unencumbered by singledom, children or a husband, this is Tessa’s story. Unlike her friends, Tessa’s life has been a relatively carefree journey, schooled to present a pretty face and be ‘tempting’ to whichever highly titled man should offer for her: one would not be wrong in assuming that she is flighty, superficial and a bit of a tease. But, when a flirtation turns to an attack, and Tessa finds herself pregnant, unwed and knowing she’ll be disowned and turned out, the advertisement brings her an option.
Joseph Chance, pseudo-son to an earl with a head for business, a solid partnership built to import guano as fertilizer, handsome, educated and instantly smitten with Tessa’s laugh, beauty and seemingly open nature, he asks for her hand unaware of her history. A wedding night where the lies of omission and determination to fly down the aisle have finally taken a toll, Tessa comes clean and tells Joseph of the pregnancy. Instantly he’s angered by her lack of honesty, and more questions aren’t asked. He doesn’t know that she was attacked, he believes every shining moment of her personality was a ‘construct’, meant only to give her child a name. As per their agreement, for Joseph is nothing if a gentleman to his very toes, she’s deposited in London at the Belgravia townhome belonging to the Aunt and Uncle of her friend Willa, Tessa must reconcile the trauma of her pregnancy, the anger from her husband, and the shattering of her hopes for the future.
Internalizing the trauma and blaming herself and her flirtatious behavior as the reason she was attacked, and part of the reason that although the agreement of her marriage meant they were to go their separate ways, Joseph’s utter silence. She and her friends get information on pregnancy, delivery and child-rearing, and are doing a marvelous job. But, Tessa also knows that her father, the one who has now disowned her, could provide giant obstacles to Joseph and his partners’ ability to dock and offload their cargo – so she teaches herself, with plenty of trips, questions, notes and hours, how to find new docking space, a crew to offload, warehousing, tariffs and even transportation to customers – all being ready when, earlier than expected, Joseph is back with the ship and cargo.
What a clever switch and pairing here – to take Tessa – to the manor born, and Joseph, son of a domestic but hard work and loyal service rewarded with education, friendship and a position of family in an earl’s household, similar to one of the earl’s sons, they are both people with expectations that don’t match what they actually can do or be. Tessa was quick, clever, smart and determined – and all of that helped to make her ‘famous’ as a great eligible in society and at her home in Suffolk. But, that sort of constant effort needed to delight and charm takes intelligence, and she quickly parlayed her intelligence into a way to make a living for her and the child. Joseph, from his upbringing could aspire to valet, but his loyalty, intelligence, quick wit and determination all brought him wealth, and the importing scheme that he and his friends have devised will bring much more. He’s spent months holding a grudge against Tessa for her ‘deception’, but the key here is he cares. Cares for her beyond any reasonable level, and finds her endlessly fascinating, always able to confound him. But he’s also not a monster, and is willing to hear her side of the story, to understand why she did what she did, and perhaps even try to see if there is some chance there for a them. But he’s also strong-willed with a true anger for anyone who dares to take advantage of others, and he doesn’t actually recognize that Tessa, ashamed from her deception, is as afraid he doesn’t want her as he is afraid of not being worthy of her. Unconventional even for the time, with Tessa’s chosen profession as a shipping clerk, and Joseph’s supporting both her working and her need to recapture her own power as a woman, he’s a much more ‘modern’ male than one may have expected from Historic Romance reads, but a lovely one – sure to be a favorite of many. Again, Michaels has woven a story in two perspectives, sharing the thoughts, concerns, struggles and joys of a couple never quite meant to match as they find their way to happy ever after.
Title: All Dressed in White
Author: Charis Michaels
Series: The Brides of Belgravia #2
Also in this series: Any Groom Will Do
Genre: Historical Romance, Post-Regency, Setting: Britain
Published by: Avon Impulse
Published on: 21 August, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google
Self-made shipping magnate Joseph Chance never planned on falling in love. He simply needed financing for a new business venture and a marriage of convenience provides it. Then he meets Tessa St. Croix, his future bride, and is instantly smitten. But when the angelic beauty reveals a life-changing secret on their wedding night, Joseph thinks maybe some dreams shouldn’t come true. He leaves England, reconciling himself to a detached, convenient marriage after all.
Eleven months later, Tessa Chance has built a new life for herself in the heart of London. She’s learned her new husband's business and is determined to support herself and her responsibilities. When Joseph returns to London unexpectedly, nothing is as he imagined. His estranged wife has become the one person who can help him secure his company’s future, and her allure can tempt him still. Determined and hopeful, Tessa jumps at the chance to prove herself and justify the secret that tore them apart.
Although bruised pride and broken hearts lie between them, Joseph and Tessa realize the love they once felt has never truly left. If they can learn to forgive each other, they’ll soon discover the truest love can heal all wounds.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.