Synopsis from Goodreads: Dr. Neal Stradbroke has a secret past that could destroy everything he’s worked since childhood to build. But when he falls in love with the daughter of one of his patients, he must choose between revealing his past and risk losing everything or keeping his secret and watching her marry another man. Cadence “Caddy” Bainbridge has worked hard as a seamstress since her vicar father died, and for a while, things went well. The last thing she needs is a romantic entanglement—but she finds herself torn between two men: Oliver Carmichael, whose wealth could give Caddy’s mother the life of ease she deserves; and Neal Stradbroke, for whom her heart yearns. Oliver Carmichael has always drawn the eye of all the girls with no exertion on his part—all the girls, that is, except seamstress Caddy Bainbridge. So, even though he has plans to marry Edith Buchanan, he places a bet with his friends that he can make Caddy fall in love with him before the opening day of the Great Exhibition. Edith Buchanan has been disappointed in marriage prospects already, so she is not about to lose another suitor to a woman of lower social status—especially not her own dressmaker!—so she spreads rumors about Caddy that could not only ruin Caddy’s business but cause Caddy’s mother to have a fatal relapse. Courtship . . . cunning . . . candor. Who has an honest heart?
Feelings: First of all, can I just say…that synopsis from Goodreads is misleading. Caddy never talks about how Oliver’s wealth could help her mother. And she really isn’t ever torn between them. Also, this book never discusses how Edith has lost multiple suitors to women of “lower social status”. I’m guessing the author wrote that blurb, putting into that blurb what she wanted her book to be. I just wish she’d matched the book with the synopsis because it would have been a much richer and well rounded story.
Now, having said all of that…I really liked this book! I enjoyed the characters and how there were a few storylines weaving together. I liked the tension that the author built by switching to other stories at the height of another’s tension. The main conflict was disappointing and lacking substance, but I thought this book’s crowning glory were its characters and the author’s ability to paint a picture.
Issues: I really only had 2 issues with this story. Issue #1: I hate when the main conflict of a story is something that could be solved by simple communication. It makes me legit angry. We had allll this build up, guiding us to the “highest” point of the story when they both share their struggles…and it’s dumb. Caddy had a real trust issue to confess, but Neal’s HUGE secret was again…dumb. I get the historical context and all that, but it just wasn’t meaty enough, you know?
Issue #2: That ending. It was nothing. Edith wasn’t a like-able character, sure, but her ending was weak – a cop out. She could have easily gotten more resolution. And Oliver? His resolution is really just seen from someone else’s POV and then he’s gone. No wrap up, no conclusion. It all felt so rushed, like the author was so over her own story and ready to be done with it. I read in the author’s Goodreads review (of her OWN BOOK) that this book and the one before it were written just to pay some bills. You see that lack of investment in her writing, but not really until the end! I thought the rest of it was well written!
Characters: I enjoyed reading about Caddy. She was a strong female character, independent and making her own way in the world. I liked that while she wanted love, she wasn’t resigned to being a spinster, like so many other “older” characters that you find in historical fiction.
As the story went along, I started piecing together Dr. Neal’s truth. I didn’t hate how the mystery dragged on because I liked his character so much. However, when his truth was revealed (quickly, on one of the last couple of pages) I was disappointed. THAT’S IT? That’s what was holding up their romance all this time? What a waste.
Oliver is confusing. He’s a player, he feels real emotion, then he’s being a jerk, then he’s being manipulative, then he’s showing real concern…who are you? After having read this whole book, I still don’t feel like I really know Oliver and whether he actually has any depth.
Edith…she’s a classic mean girl. She deserved the unhappy ending that she received, but knowing the direction of her life would have helped the resolution. She was a big piece of this book and even though she was a nasty person, with all that page time she deserved more.
Final thoughts: After I was about halfway through this book, I realized it was the second book in a duology. I did a little research and found that the first book and this one are actually parallel stories, the second one happens at the same time as the first, just from different perspectives. I don’t know that I’ll read the “first” book because it focuses on characters that I don’t really care anything about. If you like historical fiction, I think this is a good one. It’s not flawless or an instant classic, but I enjoyed the romance in it. This is the kind of sweet romance I liked to read. They could have gotten together sooner, but the emotions were adorable.
Pick this up if you liked:
Follow the Heart by Kaye Dacus
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Goodreads rating: 4.09/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.4/5
My rating: 4/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn