I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Girl With The Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #2
Published by HarperCollins on May 30th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General, Romantic Comedy
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play
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While you were sleeping...
With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He's unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier's life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie...
I told everyone I was your wife
When Edward comes to, he's more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out three months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is—even if he does not recall her face—and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he'd always assumed he'd marry his neighbor back in England.
If only it were true...
Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself—completely—to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.
Every time I finish a novel by Julia Quinn, I have to remind myself, “Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened.” I have to admit, The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband had me smiling a heck of a lot throughout. Julia Quinn remains a master at creating three-dimensional characters set against realistic and interesting backdrops who steal readers hearts with their honest emotions.
Can you tell I’m a fan of her work? Ms. Quinn’s work is always the first I suggest to anyone new to reading historical romance sub-genre fiction. Hell, she’s one of my top recs for any type of fiction. Julia Quinn is Writing Royalty in my estimation — the Queen of Quips, the Princess of Plucky Heroines, the Duchess of Delicious Heroes, the Countess of Characterization, and so on… You get the idea. This royal lineage is on ample display in The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband.
Cecilia Harcourt, the titular Girl with the Make-Believe Husband, never set out to find a husband, real or fake. She lost her father to the grave, her home to her odious cousin, and her brother to the military (literally, the British Army can’t find him). Cecilia impetuously sets sail from England to locate her brother in Revolutionary War Era Manhattan. Encountering obstacles at every turn in her search, Cecilia’s need to do something overrides her sensibilities when she discovers her brother’s best friend (and her sometime correspondent), Capt. Edward Rokesby languishing in a military hospital. Refused admittance to care for Edward since she is not family, Cecilia blurts out her fateful declaration, “I am his wife.” Needless to say, she can’t unring that bell.
To Cecilia’s — and the newly conscious Edward’s — surprise, her pseudo husband is relieved and delighted to have her by his side. Edward (conveniently for Cecilia’s lie) does not remember the past few months due to his injury. While he may not remember acquiring a bride, but he recalls enough to know he would have certainly chosen Cecilia, his best friend Thomas’ sister. It seems their correspondence fueled a tendre for Cecilia, despite having never met. For Edward it makes perfect sense that he is married to Cecilia.
These characters are so real, flaws and all. Most scenes are simple quiet ones between Edward and Cecilia as they come to terms with their feelings and new situation. Cecilia’s internal conflict over their ersatz marriage puts her in an untenable position — lying to the man she has fallen completely in love with, one whom she believes has a future he must abandon due to her folly. And Edward — gah! — he is portrayed as a completely human character rather than a stereotype. He’s not a rake to be reformed or a stuffy prig to be freed — he’s an honest gentleman and officer who is occasionally short-tempered and grumpy but always trying his best. I absolutely LOVE these two together.
Although I am sad to leave Edward and Cecilia behind, I relish every moment I was able to spend with them. One of the best part of books, is you can read them again! The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn is definitely going in my re-read rotation. I urge you to read it — at least once!
His head hurt.
Correction, his head really hurt.
It was hard to tell, though, just what sort of pain it was. He might have been shot through the head with a musket ball. That seemed plausible, given his current location in New York (or was it Connecticut?) and his current occupation as a captain in His Majesty’s army.
There was a war going on, in case one hadn’t noticed.
But this particular pounding—the one that felt more like someone was bashing his skull with a cannon (not a cannonball, mind you, but an actual cannon) seemed to indicate that he had been attacked with a blunter instrument than a bullet.
An anvil, perhaps. Dropped from a second-story window.
But if one cared to look on the bright side, a pain such as this did seem to indicate that he wasn’t dead, which was also a plausible fate, given all the same facts that had led him to believe he might have been shot.
That war he’d mentioned… people did die.
With alarming regularity.
So he wasn’t dead. That was good. But he also wasn’t sure where he was, precisely. The obvious next step would be to open his eyes, but his eyelids were translucent enough for him to realize that it was the middle of the day, and while he did like to look on the metaphorical bright side, he was fairly certain that the literal one would prove blinding.
So he kept his eyes closed.
But he listened.
He wasn’t alone. He couldn’t make out any actual conversation, but a low buzz of words and activity filtered through the air. People were moving about, setting objects on tables, maybe pulling a chair across the floor.
Someone was moaning in pain.
Most of the voices were male, but there was at least one lady nearby. She was close enough that he could hear her breathing. She made little noises as she went about her business, which he soon realized included tucking blankets around him and touching his forehead with the back of her hand.
He liked these little noises, the tiny little mmms and sighs she probably had no idea she was making. And she smelled nice, a bit like lemons, a bit like soap.
And a bit like hard work.
He knew that smell. He’d worn it himself, albeit usually only briefly until it turned into a full-fledged stink.
On her, though, it was more than pleasant. Perhaps a little earthy. And he wondered who she was, to be tending to him so diligently.
“How is he today?”
Edward held himself still. This male voice was new, and he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to know he was awake yet.
Although he wasn’t sure why he felt this hesitancy.
“The same,” came the woman’s reply.
“I am concerned. If he doesn’t wake up soon…”
“I know,” the woman said. There was a touch of irritation in her voice, which Edward found curious.
“Have you been able to get him to take broth?”
“Just a few spoonfuls. I was afraid he would choke if I attempted any more than that.”
The man made a vague noise of approval. “Remind me how long he has been like this?”
“A week, sir. Four days before I arrived, and three since.”
A week. Edward thought about this. A week meant it must be… March? April?
No, maybe it was only February. And this was probably New York, not Connecticut.
But that still didn’t explain why his head hurt so bloody much. Clearly he’d been in some sort of an accident. Or had he been attacked?
“There has been no change at all?” the man asked, even though the lady had just said as much.
But she must have had far more patience than Edward, because she replied in a quiet, clear voice, “No, sir. None.”
The man made a noise that wasn’t quite a grunt. Edward found it impossible to interpret.
“Er…” The woman cleared her throat. “Have you any news of my brother?”
Her brother? Who was her brother?
“I am afraid not, Mrs. Rokesby.”
“It has been nearly two months,” she said quietly.
Mrs. Rokesby? Edward really wanted them to get back to that point. There was only one Rokesby in North America as far as he knew, and that was him. So if she was Mrs. Rokesby…
“I think,” the male voice said, “that your energies would be better spent tending to your husband.”
“I assure you,” she said, and there was that touch of irritation again, “that I have been caring for him most faithfully.”
Husband? They were calling him her husband? Was he married? He couldn’t be married. How could he be married and not remember it?
Who was this woman?
Edward’s heart began to pound. What the devil was happening to him?
“Did he just make a noise?” the man asked.
“I… I don’t think so.”
She moved then, quickly. Hands touched him, his cheek, then his chest, and even through her obvious concern, there was something soothing in her motions, something undeniably right.
“Edward?” she asked, taking his hand. She stroked it several times, her fingers brushing lightly over his skin. “Can you hear me?”
He ought to respond. She was worried. What kind of gentleman did not act to relieve a lady’s distress?
“I fear he may be lost to us,” the man said, with far less gentleness than Edward thought appropriate.
“He still breathes,” the woman said in a steely voice.
The man said nothing, but his expression must have been one of pity, because she said it again, more loudly this time.
“He still breathes.”
Edward felt her hand tighten around his. Then she placed her other on top, her fingers resting lightly on his knuckles. It was the smallest sort of embrace, but Edward felt it down to his soul.
“He still breathes, Colonel,” she said with quiet resolve. “And while he does, I will be here. I may not be able to help Thomas, but—”
Thomas. Thomas Harcourt. That was the connection. This must be his sister. Cecilia. He knew her well.
Or not. He’d never actually met the lady, he felt like he knew her. She wrote to her brother with a diligence that was unmatched in the regiment. Thomas received twice as much mail as Edward, and Edward had four siblings to Thomas’s one.
Cecilia Harcourt. What on earth was she doing in North America? She was supposed to be in Derbyshire, in that little town Thomas had been so eager to leave. The one with the hot springs. Matlock. No, Matlock Bath.
Edward had never been, but he thought it sounded charming. Not the way Thomas described it, of course; he liked the bustle of city life and couldn’t wait to take a commission and depart his village. But Cecilia was different. In her letters, the small Derbyshire town came alive, and Edward almost felt that he would recognize her neighbors if he ever went to visit.
She was witty. Lord, she was witty. Thomas used to laugh so much at her missives that Edward finally made him read them out loud.
Then one day, when Thomas was penning his response, Edward interrupted so many times that Thomas finally shoved out his chair and held forth his quill.
“You write to her,” he’d said.
So he did.
Not on his own, of course. Edward could never have written to her directly. It would have been the worst sort of impropriety, and he would not have insulted her in such a manner. But he took to scribbling a few lines at the end of Thomas’s letters, and whenever she replied, she had a few lines for him.
Thomas carried a miniature of her, and even though he said it was several years old, Edward had found himself staring at it, studying the small portrait of the young woman, wondering if her hair really was that remarkable golden color, or if she really did smile that way, lips closed and mysterious.
Somehow he thought not. She did not strike him as a woman with secrets. Her smile would be sunny and free. Edward had even thought he’d like to meet her once this godforsaken war was over. He’d never said anything to Thomas, though.
That would have been strange.
Now Cecilia was here. In the colonies. Which made absolutely no sense, but then again, what did? Edward’s head was injured, and Thomas seemed to be missing, and…
Edward thought hard.
…and he seemed to have married Cecilia Harcourt.
He opened his eyes and tried to focus on the green-eyed woman peering down at him.