Book Review: Never Fall for Your Fiancée (The Merriwell Sisters #1) (ARC)

Expected publication: November 9th 2021

Author: Virginia Heath

The last thing Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, ever 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 ways at bay. But when Hugh learns his interfering mother is on a ship bound for England, he realizes his complicated, convoluted but convenient ruse is about to implode. Until he collides with a beautiful woman, who might just be the miracle he needs.

Minerva Merriwell has had to struggle to support herself and her two younger sisters ever since their feckless father abandoned them. Work as a woodcut engraver is few and far between, and the Merriwell sisters are nearly penniless. So, when Hugh asks Minerva to pose as his fiancée while his mother is visiting, she knows that while the scheme sounds ludicrous, the offer is too good to pass up.

Once Minerva and her sisters arrive at Hugh’s estate, of course, nothing goes according to his meticulous plan. As hilarity and miscommunication ensue, while everyone tries to keep their tangled stories straight, 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?

Once I saw that this was a fake dating historical romance, I was beyond excited to read Never Fall for Your Fiancée. While it was the type of story I was expecting, I loved this aspect as it was enjoyable from start to finish. Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, is 32-years-old and has a major problem. His mother is insistent on meeting his fiancée of the past two years, Minerva; however, she does not exist and Hugh has run out of excuses. When he comes to the aid of a woman in need, he is thrilled to learn that her name actually is Minerva. He thinks she may hold the answers he seeks in his fiancée dilemma and proposes a proposition where he will pay her to act as his fiancée along with a break-up plan after she meets his mother. After her father left her and her sisters penniless five years ago, Minerva Meriwell has been taking care of her family. While she is a talented woodcarver for printing presses, she struggles to make enough to survive. As she is in need of funds, so she agrees to give this opportunity a try.

As Hugh is set to meet his mother in Hampshire, Minerva and Hugh must travel there together. Along for the ride are Minerva’s younger sisters, Diana, 22, and Venus (Vee), 17. While Minerva is game and seems a natural at pretend, her sisters have a difficult time adjusting. The more bold and brash Diana does not trust Hugh and is reluctant to play along while Vee is shy and gets frustrated as she is not quick to catch on during their high society lessons. These lessons when they first arrive were entertaining as there are a lot of rules involved in even the smallest element in society and it was fun seeing how each sister adapted. Hugh has his friend Giles Sinclair, Lord Bellingham, and Heir to the Duke of Harpenden in on the fib. There is even a make mother for the three women in on the story, which together made for a quirky cast of characters.

There are a lot of misunderstandings as the two main characters are essentially strangers pretending to be a couple. This premise was well done as the lines between pretend and reality blurred adding to the tension of the plot. The side characters were all entertaining and together the cast of characters fit well together. Hugh and Minerva have great banter and chemistry. I liked the buildup of their relationship, although I felt their ending was a little rushed. While I liked it, I would have preferred a slightly increased exploration. The pacing was done well as the two characters initially meet and have a lot of discussion before immediately jumping into the pretend. They have multiple ups and downs in their time together, which worked well as; again, they are strangers, who are just starting to navigate the other. It made their relationship seem realistic and enjoyable. Overall, this was a very fun read and I cannot wait to read the sequel. It is hinted throughout that it could be about Giles and Diana, which would be a fun enemy to lovers read!

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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