The Hellion’s Waltz (Feminine Pursuits #3) by Olivia Waite

Sophie Roseingrave’s family lost nearly everything to a swindler who managed to steal not only their fortune but also cast a pall over their good name. Branding is everything when you’re in the business of making and selling fine musical instruments, and while no one can gainsay the quality of their pianos, no one wants to be associated with fraud either. Forced to abandon London and settle in the northern mill town of Carrisford, Sophie especially is on high alert for anything that could possibly endanger her family again.

So when she accidentally spies an exchange that seems to take advantage of the desperation of beautiful silk weaver Maddie Crewe, she thinks nothing of chasing down Maddie to alert her against being conned as well. Only Maddie has an unexpected response: she warns Sophie off, to the latter’s confusion. As Sophie slowly realizes that Maddie is the one running the con, she needs to decide how strongly her antipathy to this kind of thing can resist the lure of Maddie’s dancing eyes and, eventually, fiery kisses.

This was such a delightful confection of a historical romance as Sophie and Maddie not only fall in love but run a sting on an exploitative businessman, all while helping Sophie regain confidence in her own abilities as a musician. It had killer depictions of both the music and textile industries in the 19th century, and I loved that neither of our heroines were royalty, which is one of my biggest turn-offs for a romance novel. It all felt rather like a gentler Sarah Waters.

Tho, were I to be strictly accurate, it felt more like a Sarah Waters novella. There’s a lot of meat in this slender volume, but I do think it could have been expanded significantly, particularly in the relationship between the heroines. While I don’t mind how quickly the lust turned into love, I did feel that Sophie overcame her distrust of con artists much more easily than her background warranted. In general, there was a lot more telling than showing with things such as Mr Giles’ cruelty, Jenny’s tale and Maddie’s stepfamily. I definitely wanted more exploration of feelings, more depictions of action, gosh, even more sex scenes. There were two? Which is quite greedy of me, I know, but I really enjoyed these characters and their story, and think they were all given a bit shorter shrift than deserved.

I’ve heard that the first two books in the series are more satisfying depth-wise, so I’m definitely putting those on my never-ending TBR list. Oh, I do have one quibble with this otherwise terrific cover! Sophie is supposed to be plump, and that girl on the left is definitely more slender than round. Sigh, what an apt metaphor for a book that could use some fleshing out! Otherwise, the models perfectly embody our heroines in this beautifully diverse, winningly sweet romance.

The Hellion’s Waltz (Feminine Pursuits #3) by Olivia Waite was published today June 15 2021 by Avon Impulse and is available from all good booksellers, including

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