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Finally a heroine with some sense, some backbone and the willingness to use both. I was getting bored with the repeated "Oh but I couldn't/shouldn't... whatever shall I do behaviour of the first two sisters. Though if I'm honest with myself, the Earl is the ditherer in this tale... hmmm.
Young and impulsive, Amelia Andrews falls in love with the wrong man. She realizes her mistake, but unfortunately, the rake sees her rejection as a challenge and kidnaps her, intending to win her over in a grand romantic gesture and marry her in Scotland. Amelia's friend, the solid and staid Earl of Castledon, David Hartford, comes to her rescue. Even though he appears to be a better match for her prim and proper elder sister Margaret, David marries Amelia to save her reputation. David promises to be a good husband, but still grieving the loss of his first wife six years earlier, he swears he will never fall in love again. As Amelia breathes life into his sad estate and befriends his lonely daughter, can she also penetrate David's carefully guarded heart, or is she condemned to a loveless marriage?
I enjoyed this installment of the Secrets in Silk series. In order to fully appreciate the story, I think it is important to listen to the first two books first. There is a history with the sewing business the sisters operate and a legacy of hatred between the Andrews family (and their tenants) and the Earl of Strathland that forms the backdrop for this story. Without an understanding of the events prior to this point in the series, the secondary plot elements in this novel will make little sense. In addition, one of the strengths of Undressed by the Earl is the depth of the characters featured in the book. Having read the first two books in the series only adds color and clarity to the characters and their motivations. David's steady nature and grief are a palpable force, and Amelia's bright nature and optimism are the perfect foil to his stolid character. Unfortunately, the narrator chosen to perform the audiobook version of this story often sounds as if she is speaking with her mouth full, particularly when trying to use a lower timbre for male voices. She speaks with little voice inflection, and the changes she does try to invoke to differentiate between male and female and young and old characters are more distracting than helpful. While I usually enjoy audiobooks, I will likely continue on with the series, but I will probably look for the ebook version of the next book, rather than the audiobook version.
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So far, this is my favorite book in the series, probably because of Amelia. The baby of the family, Amelia Andrews is true to the reputation of the youngest sibling. She's a bit flighty, precocious, nosy about secret things, and quick to bend or disobey the rules. In the past her cute innocence has probably gotten her out of several punishments, so she isn't concerned with bending the rules.
At the age of 14 two of Amelia's three sisters were attending balls and parties with hopes of finding a suitable husband. Amelia being too young to participate, she was relegated to spend time at her mother's or aunt's side. British custom forbid her to speak to a man without a chaperone present, and preferably not at all. (Try that today!)
In her own resourceful way, Amelia strikes up an ongoing conversation with David Hartford, the Earl of Castledon, a grieving widower. It would be scandalous for a young lady to be speaking to a gentleman without a chaperone present. Ever creative, Amelia positions herself with her back to the Earl, and talks freely. Wow, does she talk freely. Amelia doesn't seem to stop talking. She's not familiar with embarrassment, sharing her thoughts and feelings without filters. The Earl is only attending the events because he has promised his daughter that he would remarry so she would have a mother.
At 33, David Hartford is 13 years Amelia's senior. His wife has been dead for 6 years, leaving him with a 5-year old daughter (now 11).
Skipping a lot of details here, Amelia was drugged and kidnapped from a ball one evening, right under everyone's nose. Her older sister, Margaret, was charged with her care that event. When she couldn't see her, Margaret enlisted the Earl's help locating her. After realizing she had been captured by an unwanted, womanizing suitor, who needed to marry a heiress to pay off his gambling debts.
Margaret took one route to Scotland and David the other, both knowing a woman could be married there without her father's permission. David found her first, beat the kidnapper, and rescued the damsel-in-distress. British societal norms being what they were, a woman was disgraced after spending a night alone with a man, no matter the circumstance. Of course the Earl agrees to marry her. His stipulations were that it would be a marriage of friendship, sans love, providing a mother for his daughter. Amelia will have his name and a title, a daughter, and enough money to buy whatever she wants. Anything but love: that's reserved for his first wife and only love. His grief causes him to often act cold, seem uncaring, and even cruel.
The story has some twists, turns, and surprises, but allows plenty of time for the characters to develop. It's a sweet story, book three of four in the series.
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