Overall I enjoyed this book It is the first book in Ms. Charles' A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO ONCE UPON A TIME, series. If I could I would give it 3 1/2 stars for mere fact that I enjoyed it so much. First of all, I really like Ms. Charles' writing style. The story that unfolds is engaging, intriguing, and very entertaining. I also liked the characters, who I thought were very well developed. This is true not only of the protagonists, Phoebe and Taylor, but also of secondary characters, especially Phoebe's brother, Noah, Marquess of Felding, who will get his own story in book 4 of the series; His Christmas Match (A Gentleman's Guide to Once Upon a Time) .
Lady Phoebe is making her come-out. Because of her impetuous and trusting nature, her brother is concerned that she may inadvertently find herself in any number of precarious and/or compromising situations. To counteract this possibility, Noah enlists the aid of a number of his friends to keep an eye on his sister. Among the chosen few is Noah's best friend, Taylor Qualls, Earl of Sandlin. Over the course of the season, Taylor finds himself saving Phoebe from one potentially compromising situation after another. So much so, that it has become something of a joke in society. LOL Seriously though, some of the situations from which Taylor rescued Phoebe served to show that she was naive, almost to the point of stupidity at times. Yet as naive and clueless as Phoebe was at times, I really liked her.
From the very first time Taylor lays eyes on Phoebe, he is drawn to his friend's beautiful sister. Taylor needs a wife and heir before his thirtieth birthday, in order to fulfill the requirements of his grandfather's will. Phoebe is just the sort of lady Taylor would love to have as his wife, but he is aware that with his track record, there is no way that he can ask Noah to entrust his beloved sister into Taylor's care. That's because Taylor has already been married twice over and widowed both times. It is now an accepted fact in society that to marry the handsome earl is tantamount to a death sentence for the young lady involved.
Nonetheless, due to their numerous encounters with one another, a relationship develops between Phoebe and Taylor and they fall in love. Neither is aware of the other one's feelings; and despite his attachment Taylor is reluctant to broach the subject of a marriage between him and Phoebe to his friend. Nevertheless, eventually Taylor rescues Phoebe from one scrape too many and the two of *them* end up in a compromising situation, which results in a marriage between them.
The relationship between Taylor and Phoebe is a very sweet one. I loved the way Taylor fell in love with Phoebe so very early and the fact that, although he tried to fight against it, his reasons for doing so were very believable, at least to me they were. Intrigue is added to the story by way of an apparent murder plot against Phoebe, which calls in question the real cause of death of Taylor's other wives. There is even a minor paranormal aspect in the form of Taylor's late wife appearing to him in dreams to warm him of the danger to Phoebe.
As much as I liked this book; however, it does have a lot of problems, mostly due to lack of editing; or maybe I should say "proper" editing, as it seems to have been edited to some extent. There are numerous mistakes; missing words, incorrect word usage, incomplete sentences, and the list goes one. Luckily, once I got into the groove of the book, I was able to read around the mistakes, for the most part. I noticed the mistakes, but they didn't distract me too terribly from the story. One example of a weird incomplete sentence is "How often she had landed on that pretty bottom before she learned to hold on and keep her balance." I think that should have been a question, but question or statement, it's worded incorrectly, and makes absolutely no sense. Believe me, even when read within the context of the story, the sentence is confusing. I think at that point in the story, Taylor was wondering how many times Phoebe must have fallen off her horse before she learned to control one as well as she did.
In any event, the first glaring mistake met my eyes on the very first page of the book--that is never good! We are told that Lady Phoebe tightened her fingers on the arm of her "stepbrother", Noah, Marquess Felding. A few pages down, you discover that Noah and Phoebe actually share a father, although they do have different mothers. I'm sorry, but a parent in common does not a step-sibling make, but rather a half-sibling. I mean, come on Ms. Charles! Really?! There are also glaring mistakes which indicate that the author has trouble keeping the facts of her own story straight. For instance, on one page we are told that one of Taylor's wives died from an illness, while the other died from an accident. Later in the story, we learn that both deaths were a result of accidents. These are just a few examples of the numerous mistakes I encountered while reading this book.
That being said, I must say kudos to Ms. Charles for being spot on with her use of titles and forms of address! Too often authors mangle that particular area and it is one of my pet peeves! Furthermore, the story that unfolds is one that I enjoyed, despite the drawbacks. I definitely intend to read Noah's story at some point. So, bottom line, complaints aside, I liked this book and would recommend it as a worthwhile read. I would also recommend that Ms. Charles invest in an editor, or at least a good one, because it really is ashamed to see such a good story suffer from errors that are totally unnecessary. FYI, this is essentially a clean romance. There is a post-marital love scene, but no details of the actual act are provided. Happy reading!