4.75 / 5 stars
I absolutely love this series and already can’t wait for the next book! I adore each of these dynamic female protagonists, and reading their stories has made Tessa Dare one of my favorite romance authors since I started really diving into the genre about a year and a half ago.
In this novel, we’re told the story of animal-loving wallflower Penny. Penny is the vegetarian daughter of an earl and lives in one of her family’s houses with only a single servant and a gaggle of interesting animals, including a hedgehog, a two-legged dog, and an otter. She has rescued each of these creatures and prefers spending time with them to impressing her peers in high society, much to her family’s dismay. At twenty-six, most have already labelled her a strange spinster, including Penny herself. When Penny’s aunt aunt arrives proclaiming she must find the animals new homes or be shipped to live with her elder brother, Penny strikes a deal with her new neighbor, the dashing “Duke of Ruin”. Gabriel Duke hopes to sell his house for a large profit, but fears interested buyers will be scared away as soon as they spot a goat, a steer, and a gaggle of hens on the lawn next door.
I adored Penny’s gentle nature and sweet disposition, and that in spite of this she was still a determined woman who wanted to take control of her life. I loved that someone gentle could also be strong, and it didn’t seem contradictory nor did she need to “overcome” her gentleness or shyness to show strength. And, as a vegetarian myself, I could definitely appreciate her experimentations with creating new meatless dishes.
I also did love Gabe – while he was roguish, in my opinion he wasn’t nearly as tortured or surly as many other male leads in these types of novels. Of course he had his moments, but ultimately he cared for Penny deeply and came to rely on her just as must as she relied on him. I could tell they weren’t just lovers, but they were also friends who understood one another in ways no one else could.
Don’t get me started on Penny and Gabe’s meet cute – hilarious, original, and oh-so-memorable. I also loved that this book didn’t follow the typical pacing we see in romance novels as far as steamier scenes.
I have one recommendation if you haven’t read the other books in this series: please read both of them before diving into Penny’s story. The characters from the first two books make pretty significant appearances in this book, and if you haven’t read their stories or gotten to know them as characters their scenes will not be nearly as enjoyable. It will be worth it, I promise!