Overworked London banker David Hawke has two goals for his week in the seaside town of Brighton: one, demand repayment of a debt without losing a valued friendship and two, relax for the remaining holiday without further distractions—except he encounters his friend’s newly confident younger sister. Abigail Watson is flirty, bold, and determined David will agree to her bargain and save her brother from debtor’s prison. But is her game to prevent him from calling in the debt, or are her sweet kisses a sign she is after a much greater prize instead?
This was a fairly entertaining novella, but it felt sadly underdeveloped for the most part. Our hero is David Hawke, an overworked London banker who travels to Brighton for what I imagine is a week’s holiday every year – and yet has his own house in the town. But this visit is going to be a less than pleasant one, as he has to give one of his friends an eviction notice unless he can pay off his debts within the next month.
David hates having to do the dirty and keeps putting it off – but his friend’s sister Abigail has a good idea of what is going to happen, and has already formed a plan to avert disaster. Peter must marry an heiress and she has just the woman in mind, a cold, proud beauty who would probably make him even more miserable than he already is.
When Abigail informs David of this plan and he agrees to wait a little before serving the notice, she gives him a kiss, in gratitude. He warns her that she can’t get around him by doing things like that – but she’s curious; that was her first kiss and as it didn’t go so well she kisses him again anyway.
After that, David’s opinion of his friend’s little sister changes materially. *wink* It’s clear that Abigail has had a bit of a crush on her handsome, workaholic neighbour for some time, but he has been oblivious, having no time for anything other than his work.
Having abandoned her plan to marry Peter to the heiress, help comes in another form, that of their other neighbour, Imogen George, who is secretly a famous author. It seems that Imogen has carried a torch for Peter unbeknownst to anybody, and she suggests to him that they marry, as she is wealthy enough to pay off his debts and ensure that he keeps his home. Abigail is aghast and worried for her friend, but Imogen and Peter remain betrothed. I’m assuming that, as they remain unmarried at the end of this book, their relationship will take centre stage in another novella in the series.
In the meantime, Abigail has slept with David in what I have to say was rather a lacklustre seduction; his feelings for her have gone from 0-60 in just a few days without any real reason that I could discern other than that she was pretty and he wanted to have sex with her.
Of course all ends happily for our heroine, but I just wasn’t engaged enough by the story to be able to overlook a number of inconsistencies.
For instance, David says several times at the beginning of the book that he’s old, or that he’s “too old for her” (Abigail). But then I found out that he’s twenty-six! In what universe is that old? I suppose it could be argued that his dedication to his job has made him old before his time, but still, I find it hard to believe that a twenty-six year old man could possibly think of himself as old.
Then there’s the matter of the romance between him and Abigail, who is just eighteen. It doesn’t appear that he has harboured any tender feelings for her before this, so his sudden change of heart (he had never thought he’d have space in his life for a wife) came almost out of the blue and didn’t seem to have any firm foundation other than, as I’ve already said, that he noticed how pretty she was and started having lustful thoughts about her.
I like a romance that grows throughout the course of a story, not one that just springs into being fully-formed with nothing to back it up.
I know this is a novella and thus has a limited page count – but that’s no excuse. It is possible to craft a story with emotional depth and consistent characterisation in a small number of pages, and being able to write a really satisfying novella like that is what separates the men from the boys.
This one passed the time well enough and the writing was decent, but I don’t think I’ll be bothering with any more in this projected series.
With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.