My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
I had been eagerly awaiting the 5th installment of Emily Larkin’s historical romance series, Baleful Godmother, titled Ruining Miss Wrotham for the past couple of months, and it was well worth the wait. For me, this has to be the best installment of this series! I had this feeling of profound happiness when it ended, that even with wanting to read a few more chapters, I was content with how it all played out.
The Baleful Godmother is a Regency-set series based on female characters who have special “gifts” or powers. But if you want to start from the very beginning, you can with The Fey Quartet. These are a set of novellas listed as “prologue” to this series. Set in Medieval-era England, the prologues explain exactly how our unique heroines come to
Books 1 and 2, Unmasking Miss Appleby and Resisting Miss Merryweather had something common in them apart from Baletongue, our dubious Fairy Godmother. Heroines of both of these books, Charlotte and Anne AKA Merry (respectively), were bestowed their gifts at the age of 25, which I thought was THE age they were supposed to have their wish fulfilled and 2. They were cousins so the stories were linked that way. However, the h of book 3 Trusting Miss Trentham, Letty, has had her wish fulfilled at 21. “Why” is explained in this installment as the h, Eleanor or Nelly, had her wish fulfilled at 23. The women, who were originally granted a wish each, were sisters, and our heroines simply descended from a different sister each, hence the age of their wish fulfillment differs from one another. Though Charlotte and Merry were cousins, Letty wasn’t even known to them at all. Same goes for Eleanor. Therein lies the uniqueness of this series, you never know to which direction the author is going to lead you. An element of surprise is always there.
Charlotte had no idea about her gift because she was orphaned at an early age, so Baletongue took her by complete surprise. She was living quite miserably with her mean uncle’s family and this gave her the opportunity to get out of there and earn money on her own. She chose shapeshifting and transformed herself into a man to get the lucrative job offered by Marcus, Lord Cosgrove, our H, in a newspaper advert. Merry, on the other hand, wasn’t introduced in book 1 but she was already aware of her Fey inheritance. She knew she’d be visited by Baletongue but was ever unsure of what to choose. She was also an orphan by the time her story began so she was living with Charlotte and Marcus when she met Sir Barnaby Ware, who is also Marcus’s closest buddy. Well, at that time, they had a falling out but book 2 helps mend that bridge bit by bit. His visit also brings Merry and Barnaby together. Something closer to a tragedy later in the story prompts Merry to choose the gift of healing to save people’s lives. By the time book 3 begins, both girls were happily married and expecting.
Letty had her own inheritance, yet she had a really bad luck in the marriage mart. Her ‘plain’ looks wouldn’t have been a barrier for any fortune-hunter eager to snare her fortune. But she’d already had her wish fulfilled by then, so she could hear lies from truth and none of those idiots even had a chance with their sweet nothings full of lies. Letty’s gift or ‘quirk’, as others thought of it, was quite known to her circle and that’s how Icarus Reid, a former soldier, found her. He was bend on revenge, a mission of life and death for him, and he needed Letty’s help in locating a traitor.
Icarus and Letty’s lovestory would’ve been a tragedy because Icarus had PTSD of the worst kind. He was depressed, determined to end his life once his mission was completed. It was Letty’s gentle, sometimes not so gentle, coaxing brought him back to the land of the living. It started simply from the fact Letty wanted him to eat well as Icarus already looked like a dead man; pale, gaunt, haunted. I should’ve found her high-handedness as irritating as Icarus found it in the beginning. However, I knew she had a heart full of goodness and she ached for him. It took Icarus some time to get to that part, when he knew without his Letty he wouldn’t have a chance of survival. No one would’ve cared the way she had. I loved, LOVED their book and couldn’t wait for the next one!
I’d like to note that Merry, Barnaby and Marcus do make an appearance here and finally, Letty got to know that she’s not the only one with the same dubious godmother! How fun, right?
Book 4, Claiming Mr. Kemp, is actually a novella between two characters, who appeared in book 3. According to the author, she had no plans of writing Lucas and Tom’s book but she fell in love with them and wanted to tell their story. I couldn’t agree more. I’m not an M/M romance girl but this one was a sweet story between two men who had wanted each-other for long, but because of the taboo surrounding gay men, they couldn’t acknowledge their feelings. It also takes place quite simultaneously around Letty and Icarus’s book so if you’re not into M/M romances, you can skip it. But IMO, you should give this one a chance.
Now, Eleanor was never introduced to any other installment, and though I found Mordecai’s name a bit familiar, I don’t think he was introduced before either. Yet the author did an excellent job of not only introducing two new characters, but also making us fall in love with them as they fell in love with each-other.
Mordecai Black is the bastard of the Earl of Dereham but had been acknowledged and loved by his father. But that didn’t make his life any easier. Mordecai hadn’t had a lovely childhood, thanks to his absentminded, drunkard mother who named him Bamber. Yeah seriously! Bamber Pew (Pew was her own surname). I will not discuss that part of his life farther because I was rather... uh, taken aback by that name of his. No wonder he chose a different name for himself! :/
Mordecai grew up to be a tall and strong man with a dangerous vibe around him. It had to be his formidable height of 6’5’’, his strong body and dark goodlooks. Oh and he also had made quite a reputation with the ladies, so there was nothing ‘Bamber’ about him for sure. :P He’s one of those characters that the Ton didn’t wanna acknowledge but they had to and the ladies still tittered and sighed over his looks and his aura, not to mention his prowess in the boudoir. He was a hard man to ignore, in more ways than one. ;) However, looks can be deceiving as we find pretty much in the beginning of the story. Mordecai had been rather obsessed with honorable Miss Eleanor Wrotham since he’d set his eyes on her in a ball. I mean it was one of those meetings were you are struck by that one person in a way that you can never forget them. Miss Wrotham was, of course, a debutante, hence a virgin, and pretty much out of his league; also blissfully unaware of his budding devotion to her. But Mordecai wasn’t going to let anything dampen his intentions towards her.
Practically speaking, knowing Eleanor’s narrow-minded, snooty father, Mordecai knew he’s got no chance. And he hadn’t. His offer for her hand has been summarily rejected; his letters to her were never even acknowledged. Her father made sure he knew all these, calling him all sorts of names, with how he isn’t even fit to lick their boots-type narratives. But what hurt Mordecai more was when Eleanor accepted the hand of his own cousin, the heir to the Dereham earldom, Roger. The same Roger who couldn’t stand the sight of him, yet there has never been a bigger POS that ever existed. He abused women and Mordecai had more than once saved the maids from his home by hiring them back in his estates. Hell he even bought a ramshackle estate just so he can employ them. He had money, no doubt about it, his father made sure he lived like an Earl’s son even if he can’t ever be the rightful heir. Roger was an a$$ and Mordecai was duly worried about Eleanor. But what could he do about it?
Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for her, in a few months Eleanor’s younger sister Sophia ran away with a soldier. Roger was quick to break off the engagement and wash his hands off of her. Typical! Her father was quick to denounce Sophia, who was his favorite of the two before that. Eleanor was mad at her too, for ruining her chance at marriage, for ruining her own reputation. Mordecai, though sad for her, saw that little light of hope. Then, when, her father finally cocked up his toes and left her life in shambles, Mordecai was even more hopeful about acquiring Miss Wrotham’s hand in marriage. Eleanor, again, was blissfully unaware of any of the above.
Mordecai was even now trying to locate her. He heard she’s been trying to find Sophia and left her home, alone, which worried him more than anything. Since he was more than determined to win her hand, Mordecai made sure he had a special license ready for the occasion. Now all he has to do is to find her, and help her find Sophia. Maybe then he can make her notice him. Maybe then she will consider becoming his wife.
But what Mordecai didn’t know that Eleanor has noticed him, more than once in fact and it’s not because they’ve danced in a few balls and soirees. He was what the Ton gossip was all about; the scandals, the hot tid-bids. How could she not notice him?! She too, saw his physical appeal much like any other woman of the Ton. She may carry on aloof and haughty, Eleanor was made of flesh and blood and he made her feel butterflies in the stomach. It was something so new for her, something she never felt for Roger even once. Eleanor knew of his reputation well enough, as her father always made sure she knew whom to stay the hell away from and Mordecai Black was number 1 on that list. But that didn’t deter her from drooling over him when she thought no one was looking. :D
Thankfully, her father is not here to say anything and Mordecai Black offered help to find Sophia where her ex-fiancé blithely refused any help. Sophia, her young, pretty half-sister, was pregnant and abandoned, alone somewhere and needed her help. Thanks to her father’s infuriating butler, Sophia’s letter reached Eleanor quite a few months late, so she was desperate. Black’s offer came as a surprise but no less welcomed. She didn’t care for her own tattered reputation any longer, even if it meant traveling with Mordecai Black for the next couple of days. Even if it means she will feel all out of breath and shaky just having him so near. All that matters now is to find Sophia as soon as possible!
Their journey to various places in and around London was such a joy to read! Mordecai was not afraid to propose to her and that caught her, and me, both by surprise. Eleanor couldn’t even believe what she was hearing! No one thought Black was the marrying kind and yet, here he is, offering for her hand quite seriously. However, being burned by men more than once Eleanor wasn’t so ready to jump in, even if she desired Black more than any man she’d ever met. She didn’t care for reputations and the more days passed, he proved that any gossip about him was only that, gossips. He was kind, very thoughtful... his only flaw being a bit, uh, overbearing where she was concerned. At first, it put Eleanor off quite a bit. But soon enough, because of different incidents, she realized he was only trying to protect her. He did everything out of worry, that he had no intentions of controlling her in any way.
And Mordecai Black would propose to her every single day without fail for 2 weeks, and she’d say ‘no’ every single time, even though by the last week, her resolve was failing. The more she got to know him, the more it became harder to reject him knowing it must hurt. But strong she must remain, and so Eleanor decides she’s going to distract Mordecai by proposing something rather risqué. Knowing him, she knew he’d never ever do anything to ruin her. It was well-known that Mordecai went by that motto about not ruining any woman. If only she knew Mordecai had other plans to dissolve her resolve, in his own way. After all, if it’s done with marriage in mind, it’s not wrong, is it? All he knew that he didn’t want to lose Eleanor. He was certain their attraction was mutual, and knew from where her insecurities stem. Mordecai had a plan alright and he was about to put it in motion to win Eleanor over. ;)
Mordecai never forced anything on Eleanor. Hell, me who hates any talks of previous mistresses, wasn’t that bothered by his talks of his past mistresses. He even had a number and it wasn’t that big! Eleanor was duly curious. She was a smart girl after all and wanted to know more about him. She soon figured out Mordecai was nothing like a seasoned womanizer, that he’s actually a romantic at heart! Someone who can still blush, having that type of oddly adorable innocence around him. I don’t even know how to explain it but I loved him! If only you could read his mind! He wanted Eleanor SO MUCH, hoping she’ll accept his offer. And those marriage proposals— so stalwart, so hopeful; all 9 of them knowing she’s going to refuse. WOW! I fell for him right there.
The magic part of the story inevitably arrives with Baletongue, and at a time when Eleanor seriously needed some magic in her life. It does caught Mordecai by surprise and you could guess that he wasn’t happy about the whole thing. But with the intervention of Marcus, Letty and Icarus, Mordecai finally tried to grasp at the fact that magic do exist. :)
If you wanna read about a H so crazy about the h, I mean you just know they belong together, then this is the book for you! There was no pretense, no games, no unwanted drama or any dragging, boring moment in Ruining Miss Wrotham. In the end, I was SO HAPPY for them that all I had was a loopy grin on my face. Beautiful, and without a doubt, 5 stars!
PS: If you see any mention of one Arabella Knightley (clever, very clever!), you can learn more about her in My Lady Thief (formerly titled The Unmasking of a Lady) which I highly recommend. However, this book is in no way connected to this series.
ARC received from the author, thanks Ms. Larkin!