At sixteen, Millicent Graves has always known that she’s merely a cog in her father’s machine of Marrying Well. The only daughter of nouveau riche parents, whose family had the temerity to make a fortune from–wait for it–canned goods, she has known practically from birth that she must marry a peer with an exalted title, or frankly, any title at all. Enter the Earl of Fitzhugh, only nineteen, and the sudden recipient of a title accompanied by overwhelming debt, who needs to marry an heiress in order to save his estate from bankruptcy. Cue the marriage of convenience. But unfortunately for Fitz, he’s already in love with someone else. And unfortunately for Millie, who’s been raised to be “sensible” about love and marriage, she falls in love with Fitz almost at first sight.
Knowing how unhappy Fitz is to be selling himself on the marriage mart and losing all hope of being with his beloved, Millie makes a bold proposition. Partly to protect her heart and partly due to her youth, she suggests they wait a few years before consummating the marriage. Neither one is eager for children, and so the heartbroken Fitz readily agrees to her proposal. As the years pass, the work of saving a failing estate and reviving a stagnating business unites them, and the marriage, the greatest challenge either has known, begins to define them both. To their surprise, a deep and considerate friendship develops. But can their friendship ever turn to love?
Ravishing the Heiress is the second book in Sherry Thomas’ new series, which began with Beguiling the Beauty, featuring Fitz’s elder sister. (This novel is definitely worth a read too–not only because it is our first introduction to Millie and Fitz, but also because the story takes place in the unusual setting of a transatlantic liner crossing from New York to Southampton.) While at first glance, this book may just seem like another a marriage of convenience story, it is also a coming-of-age story for Millie and Fitz. It is about the importance of friendship in building the foundation for a meaningful relationship–a welcome antidote to books like the Fifty Shades series. And most importantly, it’s about the old adage that life is what happens when you are making other plans.
Thanks to Thomas’ skill, Millie is kept from being a milksop–by her quiet strength, her sensible nature, and her sincere, patient love for Fitz. Whilst Millie certainly longs for Fitz to reciprocate her feelings, she realizes how unlikely this is and chooses instead to focus on other things, such as her affectionate relationships with her sisters-in-law, her thriving business, and the genuine friendship she and Fitz share. She is a character you can admire. And since this is a romance, it’s no great spoiler for me to say that at the triumphant end, we finally see Millie’s patience and faithfulness rewarded as it should be. And boy, is the ending worth the wait!
Even though I stayed up late to reach the end, I wasn’t quite ready to let Millie and Fitz go and am now waiting impatiently for the next installment in the series, Tempting the Bride, in which they are sure to make an appearance.
Check the WRL catalog for Ravishing the Heiress