My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
A Suitable Affair is Erica Taylor’s debut historical romance and book 1 of The Macalisters series. I do love well-written family sagas. When I went into this book, I didn’t know what to expect but glad to report that I emerged quite happy because the story and writing-wise, A Suitable Affair was wonderful.
In the beginning of the story, our H Ian and h Susanna met with quite a, uh, bang. Well, kind of a bang. She was strolling Hide Park with her soon-to-be fiancé Lord Riverton, while Ian was on the way to attend a meeting. And his horse almost collided with her, which could’ve been seriously bad but thankfully, it wasn’t. But it did introduce our H and h unofficially. Even from then I could tell these two are going to be a handful, their banters were already fun to read. True to that, I enjoyed most of Ian and Susanna’s banters to the fullest. After a while, you simply know these have to be together cause they’re going to have a lot of fun! :D
Susanna is one of the daughters of the Macalister family/Bradstone Dukedom, which somewhat reminded me of Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons. They have 10 siblings, now minus their eldest brother Sam, the heir to the Duke of Bradstone, who died in a carriage accident alongside their father. After Sam’s passing, the responsibilities of the Dukedom fell onto the next bother, Andrew, who wasn’t quite ready to shoulder it. This sudden and tragic transformation in their family took a toll on everyone, least of all Andrew, who had become distant and cold in the intervening years until he met Clara and fell in love. He’s now happily married to her. Susanna’s older sister, Sarah, was also married but now widowed. She’s got more brothers that I couldn’t keep a count on, 2 of them being overseas. Younger sister Norah has already had her come-out while the youngest, Mara is waiting. If all of them are getting a book each, we can safely say we’re in for quite a journey here!
The more practical part of Susanna wants to get married and have her own family. She didn’t seem to be expecting too much. She’s around 23 and it’s about time! Yet no one seemed to have offer for her because they fear the cold Duke. Only Lord Riverton had offered a few months ago and Susanna was seriously considering his suit. Riverton isn’t the greatest conversationalist or the most interesting person alive but he’s a viscount, has enough money to keep her comfortable. He’s also quite good-looking; not one with a flair but definitely attractive. Susanna thought she’d had it all figured out, until the day she met Lord Ian Carlisle. Whether she wanted it or not, her life was about to turn upside-down in the best way imaginable. ;)
Ian Carlisle is currently working for the Home Office, secretly of course, investigating the most difficult cases that their other agents can’t solve. Ian and his men’s case solving rate is so good, so he’s always busy and has not time even to breathe. At the moment though, he’s driven by grief, hoping to avenge his younger sister’s death. Ian’s life hasn’t been a fairytale as you can see. His father, a controlling man, drove him to escape it all by running away and signing up for the Army when he was quite young. He was far away from home for a long time, leaving his younger sister pretty much alone as his parents grew ill and mentally unstable overtime. Elizabeth got engaged herself, and before anything could happen, was abducted and murdered. Ian came home right at the time of her engagement. He didn’t like her fiancé, Lord Riverton, all that much and there were things after her murder that put him off the fellow for good. Ian was also drowning in guilt for not being able to save Beth, and it’s taken a toll on him in the past few years.
With his vast experience handling criminals, Ian knew there’s something fishy about Riverton. And when his discreet inquiries revealed that the man is seemingly alone, without much of a family to speak of, his suspicion grew. It solidified when information regarding more deaths of young women exactly the same as Beth’s surfaced. It seemed no one was able to solve the mystery, except that in every sketch of the so-called fiancé, Riverton’s face stared back at him. Ian was going to catch Riverton, would prove his guilt or he’d die trying, which is the reason why when he saw Lady Susannah with him he got duly alarmed; most especially when he found her to be an amazing girl, a spitfire he gradually came to adore. But this venture didn’t remain just a goodwill for long. Even with Ian’s disinterest in marriage because of his line of work and the dangers surrounding it, he started playing with fire, for he couldn’t put Susanna out of his mind.
After her meeting with Ian, Susanna was swept away in a world of smooth banters and charming smiles. ;) She knew she was in danger of falling hard when Ian began popping up almost everywhere she went. At first, she was irritated but not in a bad way. But soon things turned intimate for it seemed inevitable. They were like magnets attracting each-other, while also poking each-other with their words. :P Even though they signed up to be good friends at one point, they knew things won’t stay that way. But after a few more kisses and intimate moments, Susanna understood there’s a lot in Ian’s mind that he’s not forthcoming with. Though he’d told her about his profession, he wasn’t sure he’d like to divulge the depth of his fear regarding her involvement with Riverton. Susanna knew about Beth, she knew Riverton was the fiancé and Ian only told her to be wary of him that’s all. But she wanted to know more to be prepared for whatever it is that Ian wouldn’t explain. This creates quite a bit of friction in their relationship until Ian decides his feelings for Susanna has gone way past the friendship level. He didn’t wanna lose her, but she was his best hope of catching Riverton in action.
Well, there were questions in Ian’s mind. How could Riverton always seem to have an alibi for every murder to make sure he was not anywhere near the scene? HOW? That was the only reason why he was never caught. Ian was determined to solve this once and for all. He was tired to this, but he also knew if he wanted a life with Susanna, he’ll have to serve justice for his sister and for all those unfortunate girls to be able to move forward. When Susanna was made aware of it all, she was only too happy to help. With Duke and Duchess’s added help, it seemed like finally Ian would be able to put it all behind. They were at the cusp of something dangerous, and quite big...
Now, even though I mostly enjoyed this book, some things did bug me:
1. Susanna’s repeated proclamation that Ian is wasting time being an investigator for the Home Office. That he should instead take care of his responsibilities that come with a title. After all, someday he’ll be a Marquess. She liked his devil-may-care attitude, yet thought he wasn’t serious about anything. :/ It took her sometimes to understand that while Ian was undoubtedly a charming rogue, he needed distraction from the darker aspects of his profession. I definitely didn’t think he was wasting time in any way because Ian was doing something dangerous yet equally amazing rather than living an idle life like most of his peers. Yes, in his absence the marquisate suffered but I’m not going to blame him for it. I’m not sure how a smart girl like Susanna, who also has a big charity about saving the street boys, can think like that.
2. Ian’s use of Susanna as the bait. I did understand his reason, how effin’ desperate he was to catch Riverton but I’m not sure I liked the feeling that he was putting Susanna in danger at the same time clearly knowing what he’s putting her into. Don’t worry, Susanna was aware of it but I hardly doubt she could realize the profundity of the danger involved.
3. Even though I shouldn’t complain about this but the ARC had way too many typos and other mistakes that I couldn’t ignore. It was a good thing the story got me totally hooked. I went to buy a copy from Amazon as the book was already live, but couldn’t due to the hefty price tag on the book. What’s up with that? :o
Another thing I’d like to note here. The first few chapters had me quite confused with some references to the history of the Duke and Duchess of Bradstone’s courtship. It seemed they had quite a story to tell. Ian was a good part of it too because of his profession. When I went to investigate myself (I hate not reading series in order), I found there was no previous releases in this series. But a prequel containing Andrew and Clara’s story is upcoming, though it’s still too far away publishing sometimes in 2018. I wish it was sooner, rather than later. *sigh* I really wish to know how they met and what happened. :) If you’re confused, check out the author’s website for what’s next in this series.
A Suitable Affair had a quirky yet strong heroine in Susanna and a charming rogue for a hero in Ian. I loved their banters throughout. Ian made the story a smooth sailing with his sometimes funny, other times absurd activities (seems like it runs in the family, just check out his cousin Bexley and his extended family LOL). I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the story and the characters and wanted the upcoming installments ASAP! Finally, I think it’s worth noting that even though I mentioned the Bridgertons, the tone of the story isn’t quite as fluffy as most JQ books. 4 stars and recommended.
Review copy received from Goddess Fish Promotions as a part of the "A Suitable Affair Blurb Blitz Tour", June 29 2017.