“𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥 𝘈𝘱𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘳𝘱, 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘨𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘯𝘦’𝘴 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦, 𝘩𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺, 𝘳𝘶𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘶𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘢𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯. 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘨𝘦.”
I have been breathlessly recommending Scarlett Peckham’s writing from the moment I first discovered her magnificent prose in The Duke I Tempted, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her second novel ever since. A mix of tropes that are essentially my catnip—a marriage of convenience between two people who appear to hate one another, with an unrequited love twist thrown in to up the angst—this Regency-era romance continues the Secrets of Charlotte Street series with a story that is so much more than the sum of its tropes. Brimming with emotion, passion, and plenty of pining, Scarlett Peckham’s latest offering is a touching portrayal of two people finding out what they mean to themselves and to each other by pretending to be something they are not. It’s by far one of my favourite reads of the year.
“𝘐𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴, 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦. 𝘐𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘪𝘥. 𝘐𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘶𝘳𝘵 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦.”
As one of the most rebellious young women in all of London, Lady Constance Stonewell is known to be a spirited hellion who never conforms to society’s expectations, and whose favourite pastime is collecting gossip. But when the very man she’s been secretly yearning for since she was a teenager ends up caught in a scandal of her own making, Constance rushes to fix the situation the only way she knows how—by proposing marriage.
𝘖𝘧 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦 𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘥. 𝘖𝘧 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦. 𝘏𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥, 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘴 𝘥𝘳𝘢𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩. 𝘏𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘴. 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘬𝘴?
Constance’s actions, however, not only threaten to destroy the character of a man who has spent the past eight years trying to become the kind of man who has more to offer to a woman than a crumbling earldom, but they also end up killing any hopes he’s ever had of finally proposing to the woman he has loved for just as long. Because Julian Haywood, the Earl of Apthorp, has only ever pined for one woman and one woman alone— Lady Constance Stonewell—a woman whose irrepressible wit and free spirit had always made her infinitely endearing to him, but who he now only sees as cruel and reckless. So when he agrees to her plan, he does so planning to stop loving her, too.
“𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳, 𝘸𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘬 𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯.”
As Constance begins to weave a complicated maze of lies and manipulations to restore her fake betrothed’s social standing, a decade-long worth of misunderstandings and heartbreak slowly begins to rise to the surface, affecting their every interaction and reshaping the way they see themselves in the other’s eyes. Julian discovers that all the years he spent hiding his true feelings behind a stiff, faultless façade of a true gentleman have only served to hurt his beloved and make her feel rejected and inadequate, while Constance learns that loving someone means never being reckless with their heart.
𝘐𝘧 𝘩𝘦’𝘥 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘸𝘰 𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘬𝘴, 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘦𝘧𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘳𝘶𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴.
I adore stories in which the characters battle their own flaws even as they work to overcome adversity, and Scarlett Peckham does a marvellous job at humanizing her characters by unapologetically displaying their shortcomings alongside their qualities. Constance and Julian both hide their true selves from everyone around them, pretending to be stronger, more confident, more emotionally resilient than they truly are, all the while being frequently struck by moments of oppressive solitude of the soul where they feel inept and self-conscious. Loving one another gives them the sense of belonging they’ve both been aching to find in life, as well as the freedom to be completely themselves with the one they love. At last.
𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘨𝘶𝘪𝘴𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘥𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘭𝘳𝘺 𝘯𝘰𝘳 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰𝘰 𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘹𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘨𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘯𝘰𝘳 𝘥𝘢𝘮𝘱𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘪𝘵. 𝘏𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘦𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘥𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭. 𝘏𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘺, 𝘶𝘯𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵’𝘴 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥, 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺, 𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘥.
With a voice that is agile and commanding, Scarlett Peckham weaves a rich, lyrical and utterly absorbing tale of unrequited love and the perils of misconstrued intentions. I found myself lingering over her beautiful sentences, reading them time and time again, desperate to absorb every nuance of a prose that is as masterly as it is absolutely stunning. I dare anyone to read this book and not fall in love with this author’s words in a matter of minutes.
“𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘧𝘧𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯. 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘳𝘦𝘨𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘴. 𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦?”
“𝘋𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘶𝘯𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘭 𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘭 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮.”