Maria Martingale is an excellent pastry chef but in 1895 London the general opinion is that women do not make good chefs. Maria started working in the kitchen as a young child with her father who was a chef to the Marquess of Kayne. He, however, wanted to give her an education and a chance for a better life so sent her to boarding school in France. When Maria returned, she still dreamed of being a pastry chef and after her father’s death went to work for a renowned chef. After 12 years, she’s ready to open her own bakery and has found the perfect location. At least it looked perfect until she bumps into the current Marquess of Kayne, Phillip Hawthorne.
Phillip and Maria had not parted on good terms. Maria and Phillip’s younger brother, Lawrence, had thought to elope. Phillip had paid Maria to leave Lawrence alone and to never see him again. She had agreed. Now, Phillip is accusing her of leasing the building next to where Lawrence and he reside so she can take up with him again. Though Maria assures Phillip that the last she had heard that Lawrence was in North America, she is not believed.
Lawrence not knowing that Phillip and Maria have not only run into each other but have been fighting, steps in to help Maria keep her lease and gives her a contract to supply bake goods for several charitable functions. Phillip trying to separate them sends Lawrence to their shipyards and deals with Maria himself, never letting on that Maria means more to him than he’s saying.
This book has good strong female characters. Though Maria is threatened by eviction, she makes a plan to have it stopped. Even when Phillip breaks down and asks Maria to marry him, she will only agree on her terms. Even the secondary characters of Maria’s good friends are women of strength. They have access to their own money and have their own ideas as to how to invest it.
While you know how the book is going to end, the chase was very well done. Phillip stayed in his role as a very rigid gentleman who follows society’s rules. Maria demanding that he show some emotion to let her know how he feels was outside his comfort zone. It seemed like too very stubborn people who both want the same end but could come up with how to get there together. Both looked at their situation from their station in life, Phillip with the arrogance of aristocracy and Maria with the love of life known to the lower classes.
This book keeps the reader’s interest. Just when you think you have a character or situation understood, something happens to make you reevaluate your thoughts. Phillip seems to demand Maria’s attention and affections without really caring about her but then you find out that he has been keeping a hair ribbon of hers for years. Maria in righteous indignation complains to her friends about Phillip and his demands, only to realize that they might be right and she’s afraid to care about him.
Once upon a time, there was a seamstress named Prudence who lived in a lodging house, worked very hard, and dreamed of a better life. Then she inherited a fortune, met a handsome duke, and fell in love. Her life was wonderful, and it seemed as if she was destined to live happily ever after.
Then she found out money can’t buy happiness, handsome dukes can also be wicked, lying scoundrels, and a broken heart hurts like hell. Will Prudence ever find true love and happiness? Will the wicked duke mend his ways? Will she take him back or kick him to the curb? Find out in January, 2008.