Lately I’ve been getting more and more into historical romances (though I’m still pretty new to the genre). One book that caught my eye a couple months ago was Never Fall for Your Fiancée by Virginia Heath. I pre-ordered it and could hardly wait for arrive this month. Once it did, I flew through the whole book in just a few days. It left me wanting more, and luckily, it’s the first in a new trilogy. Already I can’t wait for the next Merriwell Sisters book!
|Never Fall for Your Fiancée by Virginia Heath|
|Series||Merriwell Sisters (#1)|
|Number of Pages||356|
|Format I Read||Paperback|
|Original Publication Date||November 9, 2021|
The first book in the Merriwell Sisters series,
Never Fall for Your Fiancée is a hilarious, sparkling historical romantic comedy from Virginia Heath.
The last thing Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, wants is a wife. Unfortunately for him, his mother is determined to find him one, even from across the other side of the ocean. So Hugh invents a fake fiancée to keep his mother’s matchmaking at bay.
Minerva Merriwell has struggled to support herself and her two younger sisters ever since their father abandoned them. Opportunities for work are few and far between, so when Hugh asks Minerva to pose as his fiancée while his mother is visiting, the offer is too good to pass up.
But once Minerva and her sister’s arrive at Hugh’s estate, nothing goes according to his meticulous plan. As hilarity and miscommunication ensue, Hugh and Minerva’s fake engagement starts to turn into a real romance. But can they trust each other when their relationship started with a lie?
Right from the get-go, Never Fall for Your Fiancée is a light and fun book – a much-needed switch from the heavier books I’ve been reading lately. The novel starts with Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham. In spite of his rakish reputation, and despite currently living on opposite sides of the Atlantic, his mother has spent years playing matchmaker, presenting numerous young women that could make good wives. Fearing marriage and love, Hugh has kept his mom at bay with news of him already having a fiancée. Of course, this fiancée doesn’t actually exist, but until his mother travels back to England, she need not know that detail. The only trouble is that his mother is doing exactly that. She arrives in just a couple weeks.
Lucky man that he is, Hugh happens to stumble across the perfect solution to his problems. He helps a young working woman receive her overdue payment from a tight-fisted man, and then learns her name: Minerva, just like the fake fiancée he’d invented. Perhaps his mother can meet Minerva after all. After some back-and-forth, Minerva Merriwell agrees to play the part of his fiancée, Minerva Landridge, for a sum of 40 pounds. That money will help Minerva and her two younger sisters immensely.
From here, Never Fall for Your Fiancée only grows more fun. Minerva, Diana, and Vee arrive at Hugh’s country estate, Standish House in Hampshire, meeting up with Hugh, his evil best friend Giles, and Hugh’s staff (including an opinionated butler, Payne). For the first several days, Minerva and her sisters must go through some extensive training if they are to convince Hugh’s mother of their identities. Not only must they learn the convoluted backstory Hugh wrote for his fake Minerva – including her survival of consumption and the recent death of their father in Scotland – but they must also learn to behave as proper ladies. Working class women that they are, this will take some time to master.
This leads me to one of my favorite things about Never Fall for Your Fiancée. Most of the historical romances I’ve seen mainly involve upper class, aristocratic, titled characters. It’s all dukes and ladies, earls and dollar princesses. I love that here, our heroine is a woman who works for a living, who’s even on the brink of poverty. With their mother dead and their father long gone after abandoning them, Minerva feels responsible for her two younger sisters. Though she and Diana are both in their early 20s, Vee is just 17.
Not only does their working class status change how they interact with others and what they expect of life, it also changes the kind of romance that unfolds in this story. This isn’t a woman being pushed to marry a man she doesn’t know; she wasn’t caught in a room alone with a man, facing either a ruined reputation or marriage to a stranger. No, in Never Fall for Your Fiancée, our Minerva is a woman who needs money and nothing else. Reputations aren’t that important for the lower class; she won’t be talked about in the papers. A marriage to her wouldn’t be a fortuitous match for an earl. Thus, this paves the way for a book focused on the love first and foremost, without all the aristocratic expectations.
Of course, them being in a fake relationship does help to push things forward. After so much time pretending to be engaged, it’s only natural they’d develop true feelings, right? As far as faking dating (erm, fake engagement) goes, the setup here makes more sense than most books that use this trope. It’s also never overly awkward or cringey (at least, not due to Hugh or Minerva; her fake mother is another story!).
The other thing I most loved about Never Fall for Your Fiancée is just how creative Hugh is. He didn’t just fool his mother. He wrote an entire character, gave her family members, wrote a meandering and detailed plot involving overcoming illness and grieving an unexpected death. At one point he almost killed off his fake Minerva! Hugh researched several things to make his story convincing, and he wrote so passionately that he was able to convince his mother, at least for a while. Hugh could absolutely become an author. I love how imaginative and good with (written) language he is.
Hugh is also just a fun character in general. He’s charming and friendly, and behind his superficial façade, it’s obvious that he is intelligent and truly cares a lot – about people, animals, you name it. He’s a total softie underneath his rakish reputation, and secretly good at business.
Minerva, too, is an excellent character. She’s caring and protective, but also daring and brave. She’s sharp-witted but terrible at all things music and coordination. Minerva feels like a realistic and relatable woman.
Quick shout-out to the other characters here as well. Giles? Evil and a know-it-all and a source of comic relief. Diana? Morbid, outspoken, and fierce like a warrior. (Those two should be the couple in book two!) Vee is shy and naive, and we’ll see how she grows in the next two books. Hugh’s mother and step-father are also delightful. His mom is observant and controlling, yet so much fun, while her American husband is a welcoming presence.
The characters really make Never Fall for Your Fiancée. They each bring unique personalities and perspectives, and it all leads to some hilarious and heart-warming conversations and scenes.
In the end, though, Hugh and Minerva carry the show splendidly. I love how their relationship unfolds, the ups and downs as they get to know each other, and how they ultimately understand one another. They make for a strong couple, even if it takes them some time to see how real it is.
My only complaint is I wish the ending wasn’t so abrupt. Why, oh why, must romances end the exact second the couple finally gets together? I wanted another chapter, maybe an epilogue, even just another page or two. My only consolation is knowing Hugh and Minerva will be around for books two and three of this trilogy.
I adored Never Fall for Your Fiancée. It’s a quick and delightful read that brought exactly what I’d hoped it would. As the first in a trilogy, we have two more books to look forward to. I’m thinking the next one will be about Diana and Giles (at least I hope so!), and we’ll see who Vee ends up with in book number three. For now, though, be sure to read this sweet and fun first installment.
About the Author
When lifelong insomniac Virginia Heath was a little girl, she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. She did this every night for over forty years until one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. Now, to her absolute delight and utter astonishment, her slightly racy Regency Romcoms are published in many languages across the globe. Amongst them are her critically acclaimed Wild Warriners and King’s Elite series for Harlequin Historical.
Unashamedly addicted to happily ever afters and terminally cheerful, Virginia cannot wait to launch NEVER FALL FOR YOUR FIANCEE, the first book in her upcoming Merriwell Sisters trilogy for St Martin’s Press loose into the world.
When she isn’t furiously writing romance fuelled on far too much English tea, she likes to travel to far flung places, shop for things she doesn’t need and drag her long suffering husband and her devoted Labrador Trevor on long walks around her native London.
And in case you were wondering, two Romantic Novel of the Year Award nominations and twenty-one books later, it still takes Virginia forever to fall asleep.