To Winter at Wildsyde
Emma V. Leech

[Girls Who Dare 7]

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A dare to change a lifetime …

Miss Ruth Stone, a wealthy heiress, is struggling to fulfil her father’s dream to marry into nobility, despite her hefty dowry. Dared by the Peculiar Ladies to “Say something outrageous to a handsome man,” Ruth outdoes herself and proposes marriage to the heir to an earldom.

A decision she may live to regret…

Before she can think better of having opened her big mouth, her gorgeous, hulking husband-to-be has hustled her into a carriage and borne her off to his remote, tumbledown castle where he intends to put her dowry to good use.

A marriage or a business affair…

Ruth has no illusions. She’s a strong, sensible woman, not a fragile beauty and she knows her husband will never fall madly in love. Their marriage is one of convenience, her children will inherit title and legitimacy among the ton and she will have the home of her own she’s dreamed of. Yet her pig-headed, obstinate husband rouses her temper and her passions like no one before.

Her first winter at Wildsyde is about to set the old castle alight.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

A little bit of stereotype, a little bit of sweet, a lot of simple pleasures.

Ruth is a strong woman, but not a stern one; it was refreshing to see a woman who is both strong and vulnerable, who’s able to adapt to a variety of situations with aplomb. She’s manipulative but not malicious about it, instead having the best interest of Wildsyde and those who call it home in mind.

Gordy was… a bit of a stereotype, but a charming one. Rough and tumble and disassociated from softer emotions–though not without cause–he was what you’d expect. Still, he was likable in that though he was awkward and occasionally cruel, it was out of misguided kindness rather than actual ill intent.

As a couple, Ruth and Gordy were surprisingly adorable, despite Gordy’s complete denial of his need for her, outside of her sizable dowry. For a relationship that started from insta-lust and a dare, it sweetened nicely. (I particularly enjoyed his pleasure at seeing her wearing his tartan, even when he was trying to not get attached.)

Given that the story was set in Scotland, not London, it seemed that the secondary cast–primarily the Peculiar Ladies–was much more manageable than usual. There were still occasional asides for them, but the bulk of the story focused on Wildsyde. It was a bit of a relief, honestly, as I like most of the Ladies but still find all of them together exhausting.

The story was sweet and steady, a progression from point A to point B without too much variance, but all the better for it. It was an easy read that I didn’t have to think too much about, so I could just lose myself in the characters (which is my favorite part, more than plot twists and suspense).

I ended up enjoying Ruth and Gordy’s story more than I expected–I’d anticipated it being a stepping stone to book 8 (which I’d been eagerly awaiting), but it was lovely enough to actually become one of the books in the series I liked most.

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