by Melissa McShane
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Alison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is content with her bookish life—until she’s summoned to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Tremontane’s mother for six months. Even the prospect of access to the Royal Library doesn’t seem enough to make up for her sacrifice, but Alison is prepared to do her service to the Crown. What she’s not prepared for is Prince Anthony North, Queen Zara’s playboy brother, who’s accustomed to getting what he wants—including the Countess of Waxwold.
When the fallout from an unfortunate public encounter throws the two of them together, Alison has no interest in becoming the Prince’s next conquest. But as the weeks pass, Alison discovers there’s more to Anthony than she—or he—realized, and their dislike becomes friendship, and then something more—until disaster drives Alison away, swearing never to return.
Then Alison is summoned by the Queen again, this time to serve as Royal Librarian. A threat to Tremontane’s government, with her treasured Library at stake, draws Alison into the conflict…and into contact with Anthony once more. Can they work together to save the Royal Library and Tremontane? And can she open her heart to love again?
Oh my gosh this was lovely and I had so many feels. I loved it so much more than I expected to- and it was nothing like I thought it would be.
But a few words of precaution- this is a historical fiction / romance and there’s really no plot outside of the romance until the second half. The pacing is fairly slow (which I didn’t mind – it totally worked for the story…) but if you’re looking for something fast and magical, this book is not for you. It kind reminded me of Pride & Prejudice and some of the other historical romances though of course it is set in a fantasy world (without magic.)
Basically Allison is summoned away to the palace to be a ‘lady in waiting’ for the queen’s mother. At the first ball, she meets Prince Antony (the queen’s brother and the dowager’s son – aka playboy and embarrassment to the crown). Once introduced, the dowager insists he dance with Allison, not realizing her son is terribly drunk. Allison was raised to be very ‘proper’ and practical and though she admits he’s quite handsome, she wants nothing to do with him. Regardless, they share a dance, in which the prince says something hilariously appalling to Allison – and Allison’s reaction is priceless (I don’t want to spoil.)
Anyway, in order to save face, Queen Zara forces Allison and Antony to spend time in the public together. Neither are happy about the agreement, and its a slow burn that works SO well. Allison starts to see the man beneath the mask. Oh my gosh… when things finally take off with them, I had so many feels. I can’t even. Also, just a warning, things get a *little* steamy which I didn’t expect… but everything was tastefully done.
Allison is such a frustrating MC which is my biggest complaint. She’s so stubborn and pretty much has it out against all men – convinced that they only want her for sex. If one so much as looks at her the wrong way, she gets upset. She DOES start to come around though when she realizes Antony isn’t really the nasty man he seems, until something awful happens (between them) and she flees the palace – swearing off men altogether. (I wanted to smack her.)
After a few months, the Queen summons her again and offers her a proposition to stay and work in the library (promising she doesn’t have to even see Antony after what happened between them.) UGHH this is where I got so frustrated. Antony changed entirely and was so noble it literally hurt my heart and Ally kept brushing him off. Lord this woman… I wanted to scream at her to open her eyes. Yeesh woman, I get that you were really hurt in the past but COME ON.
Anyway, a bunch of crap starts to happen and they are forced to work together and I won’t say much more than that, but the ending was just wonderful and so emotional. Also I need to brag on Queen Zara who is literally a badass. I hear there’s a novella about her and I’m all over that.
The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I really loved this. Part of it was obviously the emotional aspect, but I also really loved the environment. Pretty much the entire book is in a gorgeous palace with little trips outside to theaters/etc. There’s plenty of balls, dancing, glittering dresses… you get the picture.
I also wanted to note that I listened to the audio- so I’m not sure how that affected my view of the writing itself because the narrator was lovely. She was British and did the voices well. Definitely enhanced my experience. (BTW this is on sale on audible for only a few bucks!)
I feel like this was Jane Austen meets Marie Rutkoski. I honestly can’t wait to read more by this author.