I really like this book, and it serves as a really good introduction to the series (which lasts another five books). I think it was my first Olivia Drake book and I've been relatively happy with her all along.
There's a bit of a fairy tale element with this series and with this book specifically. Annabelle is an illegitimate orphan left to rot in a boarding school where she now teaches. She's given a position as a governess to an orphaned duke by a slightly mysterious benefactor, Lady Milford, who also gives her a pair of elegant shoes. It's the shoes and Lady Milford that ties all six books together rather than the characters. She's sent to Cornwall where the duke, Nicholas, is living with his guardian, his uncle Simon. It's very much a Cinderella story.
I really like Annabelle and Simon for the first 80% of the book. Simon is a bit of a bitter soul--Nicholas's mother was a woman Simon had courted but married George, the duke. He didn't speak to his brother again before George and his wife died. He went into the army, had plans for his life--but now he's guardian to a little boy that he resents.
And Simon is unlikeable for the first third of the book. He really resents his nephew. I applaud Olivia Drake for actually writing a guardian who doesn't like his ward rather than paying lip service. It gives Annabelle something to do when she shows up.
My main problem is that Simon's POV disappears in the last part of the book, leading up to the climax. He does an about face that we don't get to see, only experience when Annabelle does. I expect my main leads to do equal heavy lifting in my romance novels, and Simon's epiphany happens off screen. There are a couple of things that happen this way towards the end. The background plot with attempted killing and whatnot -- it happens in a bit of a hurry, and I think that's why it feels rushed at the end.
It's an overall satisfying read, but if Simon had just showed up at the end of the book, it could have been one of my top favorites.
Like I said at the beginning, I actually love how much of an asshole Simon is at the beginning. He really does not give a single shit about Nicholas and completely brushes off Annabelle's every attempt to change the situation until he realizes that Nicholas is actually afraid of him. I completely buy his about-face in regards to his nephew. Simon couldn't separate the child from the parents but once he could, he really stepped up to take care of things.
And I even understand why he doesn't think of marriage when it comes to Annabelle until she reveals she won't be his mistress. Annabelle knows who she is and what she wants, and she's not compromising even if though she's sure no one will ever marry her.
What we never get to see is Simon's POV when he changes his mind. When he decides that marriage to Annabelle is worth the risk. It just happens out of nowhere. There are a couple of places where I feel like a scene was cut or just not put in there that I wanted it.
Someone is trying to kill Annabelle--she gets a note in Simon's handwriting to meet him in the caves and then gets trapped there at high tide. Simon shows up to save the day, saying he found the note. Why didn't we get a scene of him getting the note, realizing the trick, and then actually getting to see his terror? Was that his turning point? We just don't know.
I feel like the ending was rushed and the plot of killing Annabelle just was thrown together at the end. A really good romance was sacrificed--honestly, this book would have been almost perfect with just three scenes from Simon. He was an asshole for a third of the book, starts to change for the second third, and then he's gone for part of the last third of the book. We just didn't get enough time with Simon, so the romance and the characters suffer for it.
If the Slipper Fits
Overall I really like this book, and it serves as a really good introduction to the series (which lasts another five books). I think it was my first Olivia Drake book and I've been relatively ...