Miss Sarah Fairfax is having a wretched year. Her intended perished at war. His child is in her belly. To secure her future, she resigns herself to a loveless marriage. Just as she’s about to say “I do,” her fiancée returns from the grave to crash the wedding… but he’s no longer the charming, carefree man she remembers.
After being left for dead on the battlefield, Brigadier Edmund Blackpool is scarred inside and out. He fights his way home only to discover his intended before the altar with his best friend. He’ll be the one to marry her, no matter what she wants! But when his new bride disappears with his child, he must reopen his wounds to win the most important battle of his life.
From Netgalley in exchange for a review and is Number 5 in the Dukes of War series.
Edmund is the twin brother of Tolly, who was the centre of The Major’s Faux Fiancée, the previous book in the series, with everyone believing Edmund had been left dead on the battlefield. The remaining friends have all known that Sarah has been left pregnant whilst Edmund was off fighting, and Ravenwood (one of the remaining bachelors) stepped in at the last minute to make sure the child at least had a name. However, a bearded, unkempt, unwashed Edmund gatecrashes the wedding in dramatic style, without realising that Sarah was now 8 months pregnant and in need of support.
Quickly the marriage between Edmund and Sarah is arranged, so the offspring can be legitimate, and then it becomes a matter of the two adults getting to now each other whilst coming to terms with being parents, and the after effects of recovering from being left for dead. Edmund also has to come to terms with the effects of the war on his friends and family – Tolly has lost a leg but gained a wife, Xavier is slowly coming out of his shellshock (The Captain’s Bluestocking Mistress) and Oliver York has had his own problems (The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower).
Due to Tolly’s good thinking, Edmund and Sarah have a home and a small income, but not enough to hire the servants required to childmind, so much of the book is their adventures in learning how to look after newborn children, whilst still finding their way with each other. Finally they both realise what each other need (including getting out of the loud, lethal and expensive London to somewhere quieter) and all is well with the world.
Both of the main characters have flawed ideas of what it takes to be a spouse. He feels inadequate because he’s been missing for so long. This makes him attempt to be the perfect husband, despite (or because of) what he experienced on the battlefield, including being left for dead by his closest friends. Meanwhile, her worries about how tired she feels, worries about how her body has changed during and after pregnancy, which makes her feel unsightly and wary of any intimacy, together with coping with being a new mother all add turmoil, misunderstandings and dilemma to the story. Both desire and need each other, but dont know how to show it.
This is quite a short book, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as much of the back story has already been told. There are moments of comic relief – insert necessary baby fart and bottom jokes as required – that aren’t usually found in Regency novels and the sexual content, when it happens, is spicy enough for modern standards.