When Max became Lord Davenham at just eighteen he faced a terrible truth - ruination. His spendthrift uncle had not only wasted the family's fortune, but had got deeply into debt. Determined to save the family estate and his aunt's London home, Max made a devil's bargain and has spent the last nine years abroad, making a fortune to repay it.
Now that the debt and interest have been cleared, Max was all set to enjoy his last year of freedom before completing his promised bargain, but worrying rumours about his aunt have brought him back to England.
Only to find her home overtaken by four strange women, claiming not only to be sisters to each other, but nieces to his aunt as well. Which is impossible, since Max is the only family Aunt Bea has left! Worst of the lot is Miss Abigail Chance, the oldest and ring leader, who is not the least bit afraid to stand up to him. She's bossy, stubborn, high-handed, takes excellent care of his aunt - and Max is terribly attracted to her.
There is something strange afoot here, beyond the obvious lies, and Max is determined to figure it out - before Miss Abby worms her way into his heart as easily as she took over his house.
Anne Gracie is back with a new series - the Chance Sisters - which has more than a little in common with her wonderful Merridew Sisters quartet (Perfect Rake, Perfect Waltz, Perfect Stranger, Perfect Kiss), but only in the best possible way. Abby is a caring, strong, sweet heroine trying to do her best by her `sisters' as well as her honorary aunt, while struggling not to fall for the autocratic, arrogant, protective and honourable Max. Their story is fun, frivolous and sweetly romantic, with a couple of darker truths underlying the plot - the vulnerability of young, orphaned women; the price of poverty and debt.
Gracie is a master at creating believable family groups - with or without blood ties - and this is no exception. Even when the plot should seem farcical (she does like benevolent elderly ladies) it still somehow works. The way Abby meets Lady Bea, for example, is ridiculous, yet it is just the sort of thing Abby would do. The characters are so wonderfully done - sharp Lady Bea, forthright Daisy, unusual servants Featherby and William - that I couldn't help but enjoy whatever daft scheme they all got up to next.
With plenty of nods to Georgette Heyer (most noteably A Civil Contract) and a couple of brief glimpses of older characters (Sir Oswald!) this is Regency romance at its most enjoyable. True, the danger plot is a little feeble, but I don't care. Light, lovely and loveable, Anne Gracie is on sparkling form with this one. I can't wait to see which sister is up next.
I loved this entertaining nineteenth century romp, a rags to riches story. Max, aged 18, is the new Lord Davenham, but his schooldays have come to a bitter end for he has inherited a pile of debt from his uncle, while his aunt may have to lose her home to pay the bills. It's his duty to find a way to placate the creditors. Abigail Chantry is just a governess in London, and when her sister Jane sends a message that she's being held captive in a brothel, she has to rescue Jane despite fearing for her position. She doesn't expect two more mistreated girls to tag along as well.
Max has prospered due to hard work and investment in the East Indies and now sets sail for London to visit his elderly aunt Beatrice. But Abigail and her three 'sisters' have inveigled their way in past the neglectful dishonest servants, and set up house to care for the malnourished old lady properly, including a new doctor who prescribes her exercise and excitement. Max has to believe that the four impostors are there under false pretences, taking advantage of his aunt's kindness and claiming to be her nieces. Anyway, he's betrothed, to a lady in Manchester he hasn't seen in nine years. And his well-bred friends have no intention of getting caught in parson's mousetrap.
Quotations from Jane Austen head each chapter of THE AUTUMN BRIDE, evoking the period. Lady Beatrice is an absolute treasure. Her formerly Titian locks have turned grey, and the girls introduce her to henna, so she declares firmly that her restored health has caused her hair to regain its colour. When her nephew moves them all to a smart Mayfair house, forbidding Beatrice to go visiting while he is away in Manchester, she starts a literary salon so Society calls on her. Suspense is maintained by having sinister men follow and attack Abby, while the romantic interest is wryly stymied by Max's meek fiancée being properly keen to marry, obliging him to keep his word.
I appreciated the very distinct characters, especially young Cockney Daisy, while Abby's willingness to become a burglar in extremity lifts her out of the ordinary for period heroines. Life was tough for all those without money in the nineteenth century, the difference being that only the lower classes starved. Anne Gracie has written an unusual adventure with a great sense of fun, and I suggest you pick it up, laugh and cheer. I did.
I was really looking forward to this book and I wasn't disappointed.The heroine was suitably fiesty and the hero another of Gracie's luscious males.The story moved along at a decent pace and although I would have forgiven the heroine if she had strangled her younger sister at one point the characters were well fleshed out and believable.I especially can't wait to meet Aunt Bea again in the next book!
This was enjoyable & I'm hoping to read the next book in the series. My local library puchased it upon my suggestion so - Thank you local library.
Governess Abigail Chantry will do anything to save her sister and two dearest friends from destitution, even if it means breaking into an empty mansion in the hope of finding something to sell. Instead of treasures, though, she finds the owner, Lady Beatrice Davenham, bedridden and neglected. Appalled, Abby rousts Lady Beatrice's predatory servants and—with Lady Beatrice's eager cooperation—the four young ladies become her “nieces,” neatly eliminating the threat of disaster for all concerned!
It's the perfect situation, until Lady Beatrice’s dashing and arrogant nephew, Max, Lord Davenham, returns from the Orient—and discovers an impostor running his household…
I enjoyed this thoroughly, and after reading went on to read other of Anne Gracies books (none of which I enjoyed as much unfortunately)
My only complaint is that despite dealing on the face of things with quite heavy matters (enforced prostitution) it remained light and bubbly, and actually felt it could have benefited from a touch more darkness (although this is true even more so of Anne's other works, so perhaps to be expected with the author in general).
I had previously read only one Anne Gracie book and that was The Perfect Rake (Merridew Series Book 1). I'm currently re-reading The Perfect Rake which I found to be delightful. In The Autumn Bride, we have four sisters - actually only two are sisters, but the four have gathered themselves into a tightly knit family in order to survive - thus, there are now four Chance sisters. They've all had a difficult time in life. Abby and Jane are actually the Chantry sisters whose parents died early on and thus the sisters were separated with Abby being old enough to work as a governess and Jane being placed in a kind of orphanage school.
Unfortunately, some evil person kidnapped Jane and sold her to a brothel where she became acquainted with Damaris and Daisy who were instrumental in helping her escape just before she was set to be auctioned off as the virgin she was. Daisy has worked in the brothel pretty much all her life, but never as a whore - she's not been raised with the gentry class and thus speaks like the lower class person she is. Damaris was the victim of slave traffickers, but we're given very few details of her backstory in this book. When Abby gets kicked out of the home where she was governess, the girls decide to set out on their own and try to make a go of it by pooling their efforts. When they are on their last ropes, Jane gets sick, they have no money and Abby becomes desperate enough to sneak into a rundown mansion next door to attempt to steal something to sell to pay for a doctor for Jane.
What Abby finds is quite distressing. An elderly lady is in bed wasting away with only dried up gruel. The room is filthy and she stinks. Abby does what she can for her and then decides she must do something about the lady's needs. This results in an encounter with servants who are using the elderly woman. Abby is eventually able to turn around the woman's circumstances with the aid of some men she trusts and the four girls are offered a place in the woman's home. She needs them and they need her. It seems she is Aunt Beatrice to our hero, Max, who has been gone for several years working very hard in the shipping industry to try and pay off debts that were encumbered by his late uncle. Aunt Beatrice is dear to Max and he has no idea she's been used and abused.
Well, Max is on his way home after finally being able to earn enough money to settle his accounts and in fact his business is doing exceedingly well. When his man of business tells him that dear old Aunt Beatrice is being taken advantage of by the Chance sisters, the fat is in the fire. Max descends on the house with plans to toss out the four girls. This is, of course, where the real story begins. What he finds when he arrives raises even more questions and of course Aunt Beatrice is determined that the girls must stay on. The ensuing battle between Max and Abby is full of juice and yep, you guessed it - instant physical attraction. Max can't even think of Abby by her real name he's so aggravated at her. To him she's become "Mischance" instead of Miss Chance.
But Max made a deal years ago when he borrowed funds from a Cit to begin his shipping business that he would marry the Cit's daughter. And, when Max gives his word, he keeps his word. That's part and parcel of who he is. The reader is engaged as Max struggles with his longing for Abby even as they are trying to figure out who is trying to harm the girls - yes, there's definitely a villain in the background. The ongoing fireworks between Max and Abby were entertaining and Max's friend, Freddie, who is featured in the next book The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters series Book 2), adds some interest to the story, especially as it relates to his thoughts on women. His and Damaris' story will be the next book in this series - I look forward to reading it.
I enjoyed Max and Abby's story, but at the most it was a 3 1/2 star read for me.