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One of this novel's wonderfully novel treats is a family named after trees -- Willow Dorning is our hero, the second of many Dornings, a titled, but impoverished family. Four of them are in London for the Season, with the sole purpose of finding Grey, the eldest, and the Earl of Casriel, a wife. Will is especially invested in this endeavor, because, having his older brother married would mean freeing him from the responsibilities of being the heir. I love how steady Will is. He provides great support to his brother, the Earl, who clearly depends on him. He's also able to reign in his siblings. Perhaps his calm comes from being a dog trainer, which he views more as a passion project than as a means to make money. Will really, really loves dogs.
Susannah Haddonfield is also in London, accompanying her sister Della, and hoping to get her married. Susannah is also invested in her family's endeavor, because, having Della finally married, would allow Susannah to retire quietly in the country and enjoy her life of spinsterhood. On the surface, things seem to be going well for Della (and Susannah): she's enjoying the attentions of a handsome gentleman, Viscount Effington, who seems to be getting ready to propose to her at the end of the season, but, as the Season progresses, speculations about Della's parentage start to circulate around the ballrooms, and Susannah wants to know who is the source of these damaging rumors.
Then, dogs start to go missing, leaving a trail of heartbroken, and desperate aristocratic owners wanting their beloved pets back -- and suspicion falls on Will and his brothers.
I love how Grace Burrowes presents separate, but connected problems to our hero and heroine: it shows that Susannah, on her own is capable, and Will, on his own, is similarly able -- and I have no doubt that they would have figured out the solutions on their own, but, when they lean in, and contribute their time and skills to help the other -- there's just a magnification of each other's strengths and weaknesses. It was really exciting to see them work together.
Then there is their shared problem: Susannah and Will love each other, but Will (literally) can't afford to get married yet -- he has an older brother to marry off, younger brothers to settle down, and his own finances to take care of. He's asked his brother in-law to invest what little he has earned from training dogs, and he's hoping to reap the benefits of his investments some time in the future -- but not yet. Susannah doesn't really care about the money, but she respects that Will has goals that he wants to accomplish, and she's there to help him.
I'm trying to think of how to describe Susannah and Will, and they're really not the most interesting members of their family -- or the most distinguished. The most unique thing about Susannah is her love for Shakespeare, and the thing that makes Will stand out from all his siblings is his love for dogs -- but these are loves that both our hero and heroine have pursued passionately and diligently. They're really the boring middle children, but, there's something so comforting and so apt that these two would find and fall in love with each other, and you know that they will pursue this relationship with the same passion and diligence.
Once again, Grace Burrowes presents tension and conflict that simmer just a little on the surface -- a lot of it occurs quietly in the shadows and the backrooms of London. The author presents all the clues: missing pets, bear baiting, a titled peer who secretly desperately needs money, etc. It seems easy to connect the dots, but Burrowes excels in surprising you when you least expect it.
All in all, this was another satisfying offering from this beloved author.
Will's True Wish is Book 3 in Grace Burrowes's True Gentlemen series. To find out more about Grace Burrowes and her books, click below: