Destined to Last by Alissa Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3 1/2 stars
I loved the 1st 3 books in this series, so I assumed that I would love this last installment too. Well, I liked it - but I didn't love it. It was nowhere near the previous books, but it was still a better than average read to me.
Lady Kate Cole is, "by most accounts, a young woman of exceptional beauty, extraordinary talent, and notable charm. She was also, by all accounts, a woman so remarkably prone to accidents that it was generally considered wise to back away if she happened to be standing next to a steep hill, a large body of water, an open window, or any sort of material that might cut, discolor, burn, spill, break... It was probably best if one simply kept a bit of distance from the girl whenever possible." Kate's mother, the dowager Countess of Thurston, dreams of seeing her happily married, but Kate's dreams are mainly focused on seeing her music published and hearing it played in a public venue.
Andrew Hunter is an agent from the War Department whose past is shady at best. He grew up on the streets of London, resorting to thievery and smuggling as he worked himself up to becoming one of the wealthiest men of England. He's decided to have Kate for a wife since he met her, but he's never done anything to catch her attention - except to loom, that is. Now that he's assigned to protect her at a house party at Lord Brentworth’s state, where the War Department believes a smuggling operation is based, Hunter seizes the opportunity to finally capture Kate.
Hunter's courtship begins with a few funny mishaps and a tentative friendship that eventually turns into something more meaningful and deeper. However, Hunter isn't interested in a love match with Kate. She's only supposed to be the symbol of his rise from pauper to prince, not the woman whose life is more important than his own, the keeper of his heart, the love of his life... He doesn't want a woman who loves him, does he? Hmmm...
I really liked Hunter and Kate, individually and as a couple. They were charming, funny and playful, making their banter fun to read. The chemistry between them was nice and strong, but the sexual tension was subdued. Don't get me wrong, the love scene - yes, singular - was hot, but it wasn't the highest point of their relationship.
As for the story, I had a big problem with its pacing. As much as I enjoyed Hunter's planned courtship and single-minded pursuit of Kate, I thought it moved too slow and it was bit repetitive. Thankfully, things got better and more exciting halfway through the book, when the smuggling business was brought up front and "forced" Hunter and Kate out of their musings about each other.
The secondary(?) storyline that started in the Prologue, when Kate was 5-years-old, was very predictable. It was nice because I was happy to see a beloved secondary character get her (sort of) HEA, but it was distracting: while I was reading the book, I found myself thinking when the "big secret" would be revealed when I should have been concentrating on Hunter and Kate.
Overall, this was a cute story. It was light (but not fluffy), with likable characters and an enjoyable (if unevenly paced) romance. If you've read and liked the previous books in the series, chances are you'll enjoy this one too - maybe not as much, but still... If you're new to this author, this isn't the place to start. Get her previous books, which were all winners to me.
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