The Clandestine Betrothalby Alice Chetwynd Ley
Series: Eversley #1
Published on July 22, 2016 by Endeavour Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Book Depository / Amazon / Barnes & Noble
When 17-year-old Susan Fyfield is engaged to the dashing man-about-town Beau Eversley, it should make her the happiest girl in England.
After all, Beau is everything she could wish for: handsome, charming and from a good family.
The trouble is, in announcing her betrothal to her aunt and sister, she has made one small oversight.
With typical impetuosity, she has neglected to tell Beau himself.
Susan is surprised when Beau actually agrees to the plan: to help her out of the situation in which she has landed herself, not only will he consent to the pretence but will also allow her to break off the engagement whenever she chooses.
But then a revelation about Susan’s past casts a shadow on the history of her parentage and she realises deception is all around.
Will she ever discover who her real mother and father actually were?
Can she be destined to marry the man she truly loves?
The Clandestine Betrothal is a page-turning historical romance from a true mistress of the genre, which fans of novelists such as Georgette Heyer will surely enjoy.
Not too long ago, I read the third book in this series (as they work as standalones) and was met with a clean romance — the kind not typically found in the genre anymore. It wasn’t a standout but sweet enough and a quick read. The Clandestine Betrothal followed a similar suit but I found it less enjoyable.
The first of the Eversley books, we meet a young woman named Susan with a massive crush on the dashing Hugh Eversley. Her infatuation leads to a complicated lie and a hunt to find her true identity. On the surface, the story seems interesting enough and likely would have been if not for the age and actions of the heroine, and the far-fetched romance that came with it. When it came to reading it, I was neither impressed nor hooked.
Susan is seventeen and while that isn’t exactly young in the regency era, she acted much younger than the time period and her age. Often, the other cast called her a child and I couldn’t help but agree. She annoyed me beyond what I’d consider tolerable for a character. Hell, I felt bad for Hugh who continuously put up with not only her dramatic infatuation but apparently fell in love with her on top of that.
And even for a romance, I just couldn’t believe it.
One of the biggest problems I have with romance novels is that the characters don’t work together. Their romance isn’t believable. That became increasingly true with Hugh and Susan. On Susan’s side, she came off as the infatuated little girl crushing on the older brother of a friend. As for Hugh, most of the time he seemed interested in helping her but it was a huge shift when he suddenly had fallen head-over-heels for her. There was no foundation for his feelings and hers marked the beginning of a stalker if events had gone differently (although she did stalk him early on in the book so maybe it’s a little closer to home than I originally thought).
I didn’t mind the fact that the protagonists didn’t get together until the end of the book and even then, with more words than anything else. I’ve come to expect that from this author so I wasn’t surprised. It did, however, feel cut off before the story had really ended and I think that comes down to the fact that I never felt the characters had been completely fleshed out.
If I had read this book first (as the series is listed) instead of a later installment, I’m not sure if I would have read any of the other books. This one didn’t entice me to read the series but I enjoyed the third book so I’m not sure what to make of that. Thankfully these books can be read as standalones, with characters that reappear throughout to tie them together. I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one but if you’re a completionist like me, you’ll likely find it a short, quick read. Disappointing for what I expected of this author and the series.