Lord Rivers Fitzroy is as charming and sought-after as his rakish elder brothers, though he immerses himself more in dusty books and scholarly pursuits than in bawdy houses. Yet, Hell-bent on making the most of his remaining bachelorhood now that his father insists he marry, Rivers becomes the favorite of a troupe of Italian dancers. One night, after a performance, the handsome lord is challenged with a most provocative wager: Turn the players' meek and mousy cousin into the first lady of the London stage.
But Lucia di Rossi is not what she seems. Scorned by the rest of her family, Lucia longs for the respect and stardom of a great actress. Rivers's wager could be the answer to all her hopes--so long as he understands that she wants to be an actress, not his mistress. The two commence her metamorphosis in earnest--even as passion begins to take center stage. As Lucia's dreams come true, she fears that it may be Rivers, not she, who is the master performer. Is he only making her believe he cares? Has she found the spotlight only to lose her heart--or will the final curtain reveal a love strong enough to last?
After what he deemed a poor acting performance at the London’s Stage, Lord Rivers Fitzroy entered into a friendly wager with his friend Lord Everett that he could train an actress’s younger cousin to render a more believable performance.
Lucia de Rossi is theater help because she is an orphan and her actor uncle decided that after several attempts to train her that Lucia was too clumsy and inept to be actress. Instead she serves as a gopher for her cousin actress Magdalena de Rossi. Fitzroy was the third son, and thus not in direct line for succession. This gave him freedom to enjoy life without the expectations so he partied as much as he could.
So when Lucia heard Fitzroy’s boast, she jumped at the chance. Lucia knew she had what it took to be actress so she actually relished the bet Fitzroy made as it gave her a teacher to tutor her in secret. Of course, as they worked together in private, they got to know each other and discovered they both shared some common interests.
I liked that the story wasn’t insta-love though there was attraction early. Lucia was definitely focused on her goal and she was hard working. It was easy to like her because she was stubborn and determined. She was well aware that any dalliance with Fitzroy wouldn’t go anywhere so she didn’t delude herself into expecting a happily ever after. This is where the story got angsty. It’s clear that Lucia and Fitzroy cared for each other but one was the son of a duke, the other was just an orphan and actress. Despite their different stations, their chemistry was intense and alluring. It felt like a train wreck about to happen but I couldn’t help hoping for a happy ending.
The author did a great job drawing the reader into the relationship and making it believable. There were times that I just felt Lucia’s pain or Fitzroy’s pain at being torn between his station and his heart’s desire. I was just so pleased when the underdog Lucia rose like phoenix and finally got the happiness she deserved. This book was well written and a pleasure to read.
Special thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via Netgalley for the advanced reading copy.