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I’ve been eagerly waiting for the sequel to Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series for quite a few months now. Primrose and the Dreadful Duke, is the first in the Garland Cousins series and I’m happy to say it was a delightful read mostly because I adored our H and the h, Oliver and Primrose. Of course, I do love Emily’s writing style, so all in all, this was a great initiation to a new series!
Though Primrose and the Dreadful Duke can be read as a standalone, I’d suggest you read the Baleful Godmother series and its prequels containing 4 books, titled the Fey Quartet. The prequels are set in the ancient times when magic seemed real and Fae roamed the earth. You get to know why a family of females were gifted with special powers by a cold and scary-looking Fae named Baletongue. It began with the Miller Family; Widow Miller and her 3 daughters Hazel, Ivy and Larkspur. Then the female descendants of their families were gifted by Baletongue with a special power, what you can also call a ‘super power’ of their choice. The wish would be granted when they turn from somewhere between 21 and 25 depending on which sister they descended from. Girls born from a male descendant won’t inherit it and if a female who was the last of a line inheriting special power either lived her life as a spinster, or passed away without having a daughter, that line would die with her.
The Baleful Godmother series is Regency set and contains 5 books and a novella, each telling the story of a girl descended from the Millers one way or the other. Some of them were cousins; others didn’t even know they had relatives with special powers until circumstances brought them together! It was a super fun series, and apart from book 1, I enjoyed them all. The novella is M/M, with 2 male characters appearing in the installment right before it. It doesn’t really connect to the theme of the series directly but the state of affairs in both books went simultaneously, so it’s connected that way. The novella was written in a way that if M/M isn’t your cup of tea you can skip it. I read and loved it myself. :)
Book 1, Unmasking Miss Appleby is of Charlotte’s and book 2, Resisting Miss Merryweather is of Merry’s. They’re cousins. Book 3, Trusting Miss Trentham is about Letitia Trentham who turns out to be Charlotte and Merry’s distant relative. Book 3.5 is the M/M novella, between one of Letitia’s cousins and his best friend. Book 4, Ruining Miss Wrotham and book 5, Discovering Miss Darlymple aren’t directly connected to the first installments but by the theme, though I think Charlotte and Merry do make appearances in book 4. I’m sure all those ladies are relatives one way or the other, whether they know each-other or not.
The Garland Cousins are another set of descendants of Widow Miller. I said that Primrose and the Dreadful Duke can be read as standalone because none of the characters from Baleful Godmother make an appearance, nor are they mentioned. But of course, the story is connected by the common theme and our ‘favorite’ Fairy Godmother Baletongue. :P I don’t remember if Primrose was ever mentioned in any of the installments before, and right now, I don’t really care. The story flowed just fine and I enjoyed it being in the moment with her and Oliver.
Primrose Garland AKA Prim as her closest call her is the daughter of the Duke of Sevenash. Though Prim didn’t lack the looks, the riches, the brains, an identity or anything else that may hinder a girl’s marriage prospective, at 27 she was fast becoming a dedicated spinster. Prim loved reading, especially books written by Marcus Aurelius. She enjoyed using her brain rather than being the air-headed misses that milled about inside the ballrooms. What she didn’t think she’d ever find was a man who was as intelligent, passionate and as considerate of his wife’s penchant for being intelligent, something that put her off of marriage for good. Prim thought she’d live out her life as a spinster, coddling her 3 nieces and nephews from her older brother Rhodes.
Rhodes is the heir to the Dukedom. He married young, had 3 children, then lost his wife Evelyn just a year before. He’s been drowning in sorrow ever since. Prim and the rest of her family have been very worried about Rhodes but had no idea how to help him. The Duke and Duchess are alive btw. Prim also has 2 other sisters, Violet and Aster. All 3 of them inherited their gifts already so I’m safely assuming that Violet AKA Vi and Aster are over 21 themselves. The Duke and the Duchess or the sisters never made an appearance in this story but they were mentioned a few times. Primrose has chosen the gift of ‘translocate’ or what can plainly be termed as the power to teleport herself from one place to another, as long as she can imagine the exact location. Her super power comes into handy a few times in the story. I think I could imagine her doing it too. :D
When Oliver Dasenby, the newly minted Duke of Westfell, returns home from India Prim felt nothing but relief. Termed as ‘Daisy Dasenby’ by Prim when they were young, Oliver is Rhodes’s best friend. Hence he’d also known Prim for a long time and never missed an opportunity to irritate the hell out of Prim by his ridiculous, overly dramatic activities, hence the name Daisy. :P It’s one of those things that annoys you but you can’t help but laugh at the perpetrator of it cause it’s harmless enough. Though Prim found Oliver to be annoying AF, when he left to join the Army some 8yrs. ago, she also deeply felt his absence. Over the years, she’d missed him much, something she didn’t acknowledge until the news of his death reached them a few months ago. Prim didn’t think the news would strike her the way it did, that a person full of so much joie de vivre, was dead! It was utterly unthinkable!!
But then, the news of him being alive reached (it was an error of mixed up names) and Prim felt a sense of relief that she’d never felt before. And she’d gone to receive Oliver when he’d finally returned home. Out of the ship and Prim knew Oliver may have changed outwardly—he’s gotten tanned and even bigger than before—on the inside, he was still the Daisy Dasenby that made her laugh, because the first thing he did was to cast his dubious charm on her once more with some hyperbolic accolade to her beauty. It was all Prim did to not roll her eyes as she was used to around Oliver. Would this nutcase ever change? More precisely, would Prim ever want him change? In a few weeks though, Prim would know her answer.
Oliver had been dazzled by Prim’s beauty and his accolade, however hyperbolic, was genuine. He’d liked Prim when she was young, and he’d found that Prim is even more likable now that she’s grown up to be an intelligent young woman. Beauty and brains went well together where she was concerned and Oliver was smitten. Though he didn’t think of it much in the beginning, he still kept on teasing Prim with his usual bit of shenanigans, calling her ‘Prickly Prim’ because of the way she’d look at him and twitch her eyes so that she doesn’t have to roll it, which would be very unbecoming of a lady of her status. He loved when she called him ‘The Duke of Westfool; a fiddle-faddle fellow with jingle brains’ (that’s how I surmised it from their banters, which was superbly funny). Only she and she would call Oliver that, and more, disregarding his new, elevated status in life. The status he certainly wasn’t groomed for since his father was the second son and was thrown out by his grandfather for making a love match. Hell, Oliver was planning on becoming a Colonel by 40 when news broke that his eldest uncle, the current Duke and his two sons had perished within the span of a few months. As he was the one direct in line, Oliver had to acknowledge the fact that his days in the army has come to an end.
Oliver was an orphan himself but he had 2 other living relatives; his uncle Algernon, the youngest brother to his father and his cousin Ninian, Algernon’s only son. He was exceptionally happy to see his 2 last living relatives hale and hearty. He was grateful to find that Uncle Algernon had done everything in his power so Oliver can assume his duties as the Duke ASA he’s in England. But he wasn’t really saddened by the loss of his eldest uncle and his cousins Basil and Percy. It was said that the Dukes of Westfell are the cruelest POSs out there. Maybe except for Oliver’s father, who never really became the Duke. Oliver wasn’t fond of them since they’ve done their utmost best to ignore his family as per his grandfather’s decree. The only person who’d sneak in to check in on them was uncle Algernon and Oliver had always been thankful for his visits. Ninian was practically a kid when he left for the Army, but Oliver found him to be one of those fellows that loved their clothes more than anything else. A fop, I think? Ninian was a beautiful young man and though the clothes he wore looked marvelous on him, Oliver was too hardened in battle despite his joie de vivre. He viewed his cousin to be a weakling of sort. Later in the story, Ninian would prove that he was way more than what meets the eyes.
In London, Oliver was trying to settle into the new life as a duke and catching up with everyone he’d missed while in India. Of course, his first stop was the Sevenash House to visit Rhodes. Oliver was aware of the tragedy that had befallen his best friend and tries his best to bring him out of his shell. Rhodes was becoming reclusive and Prim was ever so grateful to Oliver for helping him. While at it, and attending balls, Oliver also finds out rather astonishingly that someone is trying to murder him! As he was going out of a ball he was attending, on a secluded area someone shoves him down the steps. Oliver was hurt but largely unharmed; a fact he can thank to his years in the army, on a horse, which greatly improved his reflexes. This also put a new twist in his happy return to London. He knew the Dukes of Westfell were basically a$$holes and they may have any number of enemies but why him? He’d just assumed his title and definitely wasn’t one of them in that sense!
Though Oliver hid the first attempt away as misgiving, thinking it may have been an accident, after the next attempt made on his life he was certain it’s something he can’t ignore any longer. If he’s to live and be the Duke—and Oliver doesn’t want to die so soon—he needs to find out what’s going on. So Oliver confides in Rhodes. Later Prim comes to hear of it as well. The three then discuss the possibilities and hatch a plan to catch the murderer in action at a house party which they were to attend in a few days. The suspects were also going to attend so that was their first step into investigating this insanity. Oliver, personally, still couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to murder him and he hated to suspect people he’d thought his friends. But if he’s to live, it had to be done.
The rest of the story takes place in the house party investigating the murder attempts on Oliver. I kind of had a guess on the murderer early on, so that bit wasn’t very surprising for me. What I absolutely loved was Prim and Oliver’s budding relationship that becomes too deep too soon. Both had already figured out that behind all the poking and prodding, silly banters and eyerolling, there was something going on; something that began when they were young. Though they would’ve never believed it 8 yrs. ago and laugh at the thought of being romantically involved, in the interim the dynamics of their relationship has changed drastically. They’ve grown up and now view things in a different way. So while chasing a murderer, Prim and Oliver find that they very much would like to catch up on that bit of their life. It was, you can say, inevitable the way they found to be attracting each-other wherever they went. Rhodes certainly wasn’t surprised as if he’d been waiting to finally see this relationship come full circle. I could only laugh in the end, tremendously happy with how things turned out for these two.
I totally agreed with Prim where she thought Oliver will always be Oliver; someone who had so much joy for life that he made everyone around him happy. He was like a ray of sunshine and Prim couldn’t think of him being any different. She wouldn’t have him any different, hyperbole, silly dramatics and all that. For Oliver, he was just, as I mentioned before, smitten with everything about Prim. I was never in doubt truth be told. ;)
It seems like the next story in this series would be Prim’s younger sister Violet’s. I still don’t know the particulars but I’m really quite excited to read more in the series, so much so that that 2019 is looking a bit too far away at the moment. I also find myself quite smitten with Rhodes and hoping he’d find love again. 4.5 stars and totally recommended!
Review copy received, thanks Emily! x