Review: The Baron’s Dangerous Contract by Kate Archer (2021)

Posted June 16, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Book 4 of the series, and I confess they are a bit samey, but still hugely entertaining. This is the horse-mad couple, so anyone not interested in vast amounts of equine discussion should steer clear.

Here’s the premise: Penny Darlington and Henry, Viscount Cabot have been good friends for two years now. They meet frequently, and at balls he generally takes the supper dance so they can talk more – about their mutual love of horses. They get on like a house on fire, and she’s even begun to think there may be something in it. But then, in one night, it’s all ruined. He tells her curtly that she knows nothing about horses. He knows at once that he’s made a mull of it, and hurt her deeply, but even when he’s invited to stay with the family at Newmarket, she’s so dismissive of him that even his apologies don’t sway her.

While he tries his best to return to the comfortable and enjoyable relationship they had earlier, and she continues to freeze him out, he has another problem. His father’s attempts to persuade him to marry have reduced his funds to nothing and he has a race-winning horse, he hopes, to enter at Newmarket. He resorts to borrowing the money he needs knowing a win will cover his debts, but the money-lender isn’t prepared to leave things to chance, and sets up a nefarious scheme to ensure the horse loses.

Observant readers will see how the plot will unfold long before the author reveals it, but that doesn’t make it uninteresting or boring. There is, however, a certain amount of repetition in the romances of this series. They all seem to conform to the enemies to lovers trope, wherein the hero discovers his true feelings long before the heroine, and he therefore has to fight (or scheme or grovel) in order to win her. In book 2, the hero’s dare-anything personality made this fun, but by book 4, there are fewer attractions to the process, and I just wanted the protagonists to understand their own feelings and get on with it. Still, the author has a deft hand with side characters, particularly those of the servant class or even lower, and this keeps things humming along nicely, even when the hero and heroine need their ears boxed.

Anachronisms? Well, there were a few. Rube annoyed me (again) and the dance cards (again), and rucksacks weren’t a thing until 1866 or thereabouts. Also, how precisely did the hero manage to ride from Newmarket to Devon, then to London, and then to Bath, all apparently in three days? He changed horses often, the book says, but really, hiring riding horses every few miles wasn’t really a thing in the Regency. You’d need to hire a post chaise and team, which came with postilions who were restricted to 7 miles an hour. One other oddity – the title talks about a baron, but there doesn’t seem to have been a baron in the book at all, so not sure what that’s about.

But you know what? None of these quibbles mattered. I still really, really enjoyed the book, the author’s writing style just suits what I like to read (I particularly love the way the characters are constantly talking at cross purposes – very clever! And funny!), so I’m going to go for five stars. Again.


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