A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell

A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (211 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Will the third time be the charm? A duke can’t marry just anyone. His wife must be of good family, be fertile, be young. Struggling playwright Sarah Pettijohn is absolutely the last woman Gavin Whitridge, Duke of Baynton, would ever fall in love with.

She is an actress, born on the wrong side of the blanket, and always challenges his ducal authority. She never hesitates to tell him what she thinks.

However, there is something about her that stirs his blood . . . which makes her perfect for a bargain he has in mind: In exchange for backing her play, he wants Sarah to teach him about love.

And he, in turn, has a few things to teach her about men . . .

This is quite the fascinating historical romance. Of course there is a wonderful and well written romance to enjoy, but it’s the surprising betrayals that affect both Sarah, the heroine, and Gavin, the Duke of Baynton that truly set this novel apart.

I liked how the author set up the scene in the first chapter – both main characters had their reasons for being in the same place but they are as far removed in goals as one could be. And yet, that one event set the stage for all the intrigue and conflict that would later occur. The breadth and scope of it isn’t even hinted at but once Ms. Maxell set the wheels in motion, the story takes off and I was thoroughly entertained.

I think my favorite aspect of the book is the fact that both Sarah and Gavin were at odds with each other. There’s a strong attraction between the two and it certainly complicated things, but only in the best ways possible. Watching them fall in love with each other was a spectator sport that completely entertained, probably because of the intense lust and sensual buildup as their prickly relationship continued. It started off on rocky footing, and the author introduced so many reasons to feel sympathy for both Sarah and Gavin. Some were downright sad, yet, Sarah is a plucky heroine with a ton of pride, and Gavin is no slouch either. There are sparks, misunderstandings, and when they succumb to their passions, it’s made all the better because Ms. Maxwell’s talent does those scenes justice. I swear, they took turns seducing the other even while trying to resist one another. I can’t help but smile because they think they can ignore true love.

Then of course there’s the conflict. Wow, powerful stuff. I felt so bad for Gavin because as shocks go, it’s a doozy. Gavin’s dealing with it proved without a shadow of a doubt that he meets the criteria of ‘hero’.

Another really good part was Gavin’s relatives. I don’t want to give anything away, but they play an important part in the story. Dame Imogene and his mom are the greatest. I love a happy ending.

A Date at the Alter is historical romance at its best. There is so much depth to the characters that their feelings of fear, anger, uncertainty, lust and passion come to life within the pages, making Sarah and Gavin easy characters to care for and fall in love with. The dialogue is key to understanding their points of view and sometimes it’s even fun and clever. This is a novel worth spending time with and I highly recommend it. Then again, this book has that classic Maxwell touch; what’s not to like?

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