Like many romance readers, I enjoy books that are related to each other. I am not one of those who insists on reading the books in a series in order. Rather, I expect the author to provide enough backstory so that I understand the characters and the situation. Unfortunately, Debbie Raleigh failed to do this in The Valentine Wish. Thus, I was left unsatisfied and puzzled and what could have been a fun read became a disappointment. Let me explain.
The heroine is Miss Emma Cresswell who is, as the story begins, traveling through the lonely Kent countryside on her way to her new position as companion to Lady Hartshore. Emma is fleeing London and the scandal created by her father. It turns out that Emmaís father is the Devilish Dandy, a notorious jewel thief. His identity was discovered and he was arrested while Emma was in the midst of her London season.
Her marriage chances blasted, she has chosen to earn her living, first as a governess and now as a companion.
I am assuming that this is a sequel to a previous book because there are so many unanswered questions. How did it happen that Emma and her sisters were presented to society? What was the familyís social position? How did the Devilish Dandy manage to escape the hangmanís noose and turn up in Kent? Since one of Emmaís sisters is about to make a love match with a noble lord, I assume her romance was the subject of
a previous book where at least some of these questions were answered.
The carriage carrying Emma to her new post runs off the road, thanks to the imbibing of the coachman. Emma sets off across the fields to find shelter from the cold weather and gets her leg stuck in a mire after twisting it. She is rescued by a dashing and slightly improper gentleman, who carries her - literally - off to his house and summons a
doctor to treat her ankle. It turns out that this fellow whose stolen kisses make Emma lightheaded is none other than Cedric Morelane, Earl of Hartshore and nephew to her new employer.
Cedric is immediately attracted to this lovely young woman whose prim exterior belies a passionate nature. He very much wants her to stay with his aunt so he can pursue the flirtation he has begun, but fears that once she gets a taste of his auntís household, she will flee. You see, Lady Hartshore is just a wee bit eccentric; she continually talks
to her dear departed husband and acts on his advice. In addition, her brother Bart became convinced he is Black Bart the pirate after being wounded in battle. Cedric convinces Emma, whose first response is indeed to leave Kent as quickly as possible, to stay for at least a month.
Emma agrees and soon discovers that her employer is a sweet and generous woman who treats her more like a daughter than a companion. She also becomes better acquainted with Cedric, who finds himself spending more and more time at his auntís house. Emma finds his lighthearted manner increasingly attractive but cannot imagine that he would consider marrying the daughter of the Devilish Dandy. When her father appears on
the scene, her worries grow.
There is much to enjoy about The Valentine Wish. Especially well done is the development of the romance; Cedric and Emma move from attraction to friendship to something more as the weeks pass. Raleigh does a fine job of showing them falling in love. Lady Hartshore is a delightful eccentric, drawn with gentle humor.
But because the book left so many questions, it didnít really work as a whole and the motivations and behavior of the characters were unclear. Thus, A Valentine Wish is no more than an acceptable Regency romance.